Thursday, October 25, 2012

Argo - Review

What a great ride! The movie had everything--suspense, villains, a "you gotta be kidding me" plan, unlikely heroes, and a storybook happy ending. Best of all--much of it was true.


Argo is the dramatization of the 1980 joint CIA-Canadian secret operation to extract six fugitive American diplomatic personnel out of revolutionary Iran. Although I knew and remembered the outcome--the movie had be doubting my history as it went along. It was such a long time ago, 1979, and not much had been written about the operation in the intervening years so it was all new territory for me to appreciate.

The lead character, Tony Mendez, played by Ben Affleck, is a CIA operative who becomes involved in trying to exfiltrate six Americans who escaped from the Tehran Embassy as it was being overthrown by revolutionaries. The film brings in scenes from the 70's and recreates them with amazing detail while also having real news reports playing. I was amazed at the young Tom Brokaw in the background of one scene.

The plan, developed by Mendez is as improbable as anything I can think of. It was just that improbability that caused the plan to succeed. The actors surrounding Affleck did great jobs with their roles and I believe that John Goodman, who plays Academy Award winning make-up artist John Chambers, may be nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. Alan Arkin gives a memorable performance as movie producer Lester Siegel.

I cannot vouch for the historical accuracy of the details of the movie, as I am only beginning my research; but, the movie is well worth the effort to see. I do know, from some of the articles that I have read, that the movie severely minimizes the role of the Canadians who at the time received all of the credit (or blame, from the Iranians). I believe the truth lies in between and that this operation may have been one of those bilateral success stories that happen only so infrequently. There is an article written by Anthony Mendez in The Daily Beast which does serve to provide some historical context for the movie.

RECOMMENDATION: See this movie. This movie is not suitable for the under 13 year old crowd as one obscene word is used fairly frequently.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

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