[Review] Argo


It’s the Ben Affleck flick that delivered come Oscar time, especially since he was passed over in the directing category despite being awarded Best Director by the Director’s Guild of America.  I’m not sure what took me so long to watch this.  I knew it was going to be good but the question was how good?  How much would I get invested in the lives of these Americans and their escape from Iran?

The movie follows CIA extraction expert Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) as he helps six US diplomats who escaped capture when Iranian militants stormed the embassy.  The six hide out at the home of the Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor (Victor Garber) while the other diplomats are held hostage.  Time is ticking as it is only a matter of time before the Iranians piece together shredded documents and discover that six diplomats have evaded capture.

This movie owes a lot to its editing.  The story constantly moves forward all the while heightening the danger they faced during the day leading up to the escape.  From juggling between perspectives, the view is given enough information on each of the characters and the motives that drive them.  Still, I was surprised by the choice made by Joe Stafford (Scoot McNairy) in the climactic scene when Iranian officials decide to question the group one last time.  It’s a powerfully heroic moment even though this entire scene never happened in real life.

Even so, the film was severely criticized for the many historical inaccuracies.  Upon looking into the real story, there were just way too many things that never happened.  That location scout scene in the crowded bazaar?  Never happened.  Taylor threatening to close the Canadian embassy leaving the six nowhere to go?  Never happened.  Alan Arkin’s character?  Not real.  Original title of the script was called Lord of Light and changed to Argo by the CIA.  And yet, I’m okay with most of these inaccuracies.  I believe a film needs to take some license in order for the dramatization to work.

However, I’m not okay with the fact that the role of the Canadian government is severely underplayed.  Even President Jimmy Carter was bothered by it.  Why does that matter?  It makes the film appear like a piece of Americana when the credit isn’t completely ours.  Imagine Saving Private Ryan but not making the Americans the heroes in the movie.  Quite a different feel, don’t you think?  The fact is the Canadians were very instrumental in coming up with the Argo plan.  The filmmakers eventually had to change the film’s postscript to quell the uproar from up north.

Ben Affleck argued that because they say the film is based on a true story rather than it’s a true story, he’s allowed to take licenses but maintains that he kept the true spirit of the film.  I have to respectfully disagree but that determination will have to be made by the people who see the film.  I just want to impart some of these facts before you do.

A part of me wonders why this wasn’t just done as a fictional film but the success of this film lies in the way it was marketed.  The true but ridiculous notion that a CIA agent would use a fake Hollywood film to save the six diplomats adds to the thrill of the plot.  The deception goes another level when the credits roll because you get to see real photos from the Iranian hostage crisis side by side with scenes from the movie.

On the film’s merit alone, it’s a tautly told story that thrills and excites throughout.  Within the last 6 years, Ben Affleck has definitely earned the accolades and I will still look forward to his future projects.  So to anyone who is eager to shred this movie apart, the makers of this film will probably tell you, ‘Argo fuck yourselves’.  They’ve already proven themselves with the Best Picture Oscar win and the many other awards this film has won.  And while I love this movie, I just have to knock off a few bananas for the inaccuracies that were too many and too great for me to completely ignore.



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