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Movie Review: Argo

by VL Vanderveer
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The movie was fake. The mission was real.

Argo is finally coming to HBO. One of the hottest movies of 2012, and certainly one of the most award-winning movies in recent years, Argo, tells the story of a secret American mission to rescue six Americans stranded in Tehran, Iran. As this is movie is based on historical events, I don’t mind telling you that the mission was a success and all six Americans returned home safely, but not before enduring months of hell and constant terror as to whether they would be found by the Iranians. Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a rating of 96%, and IMDB.com rates the movie at 7.9/10 stars. I personally give Argo at least 9 stars: the script was compelling and thrilling, the acting was incredibly good, and the movie is, overall, awesome. 

Ben Affleck directed, co-produced and played the male lead, Tony Mendez, the CIA agent responsible for the rescue. The premise for the film is that, in an effort to rescue the six Americans who escaped from the American Embassy during the 444-day Iran Hostage Crisis, Mendez reached out to Hollywood connections, came up with a fake movie (titled Argo) and script, then had the Americans pretend to be part of a Canadian film crew scouting Iran as a possible film location.

What makes this movie truly great is not just the acting, history, premise, script, and directing, but real video clips from the Iran Hostage Crisis that are used. A man is seen with a bag over his head hanging from a crane. Part of President Jimmy Carter’s televised address of the crisis is shown. Period correct newspapers are used. Also, real events are reenacted: for example, captured American hostages were led into a basement-like room, lined up with bags over their heads, and fired upon by Iranians – except that there were no bullets in the guns. The Americans had to hear them cock their weapons, squeeze the trigger, but not die, which is an atrocious form of mental terror. That scene still gives me chills when I think about it.

As good as Argo is, it is far from perfect, especially in the accuracy department. One of the biggest reasons that the Americans were rescued was the involvement of Canada. All six Americans stayed with the Canadian Ambassador to Iran, Ken Taylor, who risked his life and the lives of his family by protecting the Americans. President Jimmy Carter stated in an interview that nearly 90% of the plan was Canadian in origin, while the movie shows Mendez and Hollywood as the saviors of the Americans. In an interview, Affleck states that the movie is based on an historical event and is not the actual event; basically, Affleck is claiming his right to theatrical and artistic license. Without that license, however, many (or most) movies wouldn’t be good. Also ignored in the film are the British and New Zealand ambassadors who worked with the Canadians to keep the Americans safe. The British actually housed the Americans for a time before that location was deemed unsafe, and the New Zealand emissaries drove the Americans to the airport in Tehran, thus facilitating in their escape. As far as diminishing the role of the British and New Zealand embassies in the movie, Affleck said in an interview with The Telegraph, “I struggled with this long and hard, because it casts Britain and New Zealand in a way that is not totally fair. But I was setting up a situation where you needed to get a sense that these six people had nowhere else to go. It does not mean to diminish anyone.” Also, liberties were taken with how the Americans were rescued and depicted, namely in creating incredibly tense situations that didn’t really happen; the casting and makeup for them, however, was spot on. 


The Award-Winning Cast of Argo

Don’t let these inaccuracies stop you from seeing this movie, though. It is truly brilliant. I watched it in theatres one night and saw it again two days later. When I was lucky enough to catch it via video on demand, I watched it three times over a two-day period. I’ve recommended Argo to my family, friends, and even strangers. Ben Affleck is a brilliant director and producer who surrounded himself with a stellar cast. Some of the awards won for Argo include the Oscar for Best Picture (2012); the AFI Awards Movies of the Year award; the British Academy Film Awards for both Best Film and Best Director for Affleck (2012); the Best Picture and Best Director for the Critics Choice Awards (2012); the Globe Awards for best picture; and many, many more.

I would not recommend this film for children because of the terror elements and some violence. The language is rough at times, but not horrible. If you’re looking for a good thriller, then Argo is the movie for you.

 Argo stars Ben Affleck as CIA agent Tony Mendez; John Goodman as John Chambers and Alan Arkin as Lester Seigel, the Hollywood team that helped make the rescue possible; Bryan Cranston as US government official Jack O’Donnell; Victor Garber as Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor; and Tate Donovan, Clea DuVall, Scoot McNairy, Rory Cochrane, Christopher Denham, and Kerry Bishé as the six Americans Bob Anders, Cora Lijek, Joe Stafford, Lee Schatz, Mark Lijek, and Kathy Stafford (respectively).

Argo premiers on HBO Saturday, September 7th, so sit down with a bucket of popcorn and get ready for one the best movies in recent years.


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Cian Gaffney September 8, 2013 - 4:59 am

Nice review, I saw this in the cinema when it came out and was really impressed. Regardless of whether people like Affleck as an actor or not, he’s an absolutely brilliant director, and this movie is a must-see for that reason among many more!

VL Vanderveer September 8, 2013 - 4:07 pm

I agree – I’d heard great things about it, but wasn’t sure. After I saw it, though, I was a huge Affleck fan. Wonderfully directed, great acting, fantastic movie. Really, Affleck was actually a good actor in it! Reminded me of some of his older (pre-Daredevil) days.

Cian Gaffney September 8, 2013 - 4:35 pm

That last line made me laugh, Daredevil has come back to haunt everyone after the Batman news!


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