I wrote about this film way back when I saw the first trailer and heard about the incredible events that inspired it. That was way back on the 17th of August last year and it was aptly titled Argo (2012): A Truth Stranger than Fiction (just click on the previous link if you missed it the first time around) and I could not wait to see it at the cinema.
Of course if you’ve followed my blog for any time at all, you’ll know that my heart attack at the end of August pretty much messed up my cinema viewing for the last part of 2012. I finally got to watch it today (with the kind co-operation of iTunes who charged me for the privilege) and I was not disappointed.
Directed by Affleck (who also starred as the super spook Tony Mendez – the man who spearheaded this amazing rescue) and based on Mendez’s book, the film tells the “true story” of how six American Embassy employees escaped from the Iranian American Embassy one step ahead of rioting students who stormed the place in 1979.
The true story is in quotes because, like any other “true story” that’s been made into a film, not all the events are “gospel.” The very medium of film fictionalises the story. (I wish I could remember who came out with that saying, I want to credit it to little Stevie King; if I’m wrong, please let me know. Answers on a postcard please.)
We know that the Embassy was stormed and that a lot of the employees were held hostage. We also know that six folks hid in the Canadian Ambassadors house. We know that Mendez came up with a plan to get them out and that he worked with a makeup artist named John Chambers who enlisted the help of Lester Siegel to help the CIA to make a “pretend” movie. A science fiction film called, appropriately enough, ARGO.
(The best line in the film belongs to Alan Arkin’s character Siegel, who after getting tired of answering questions about the fictitious film says it stands for “ARGO Fuck Yourself” which then becomes the three-man team’s catch-phrase)
So all the main events are true. But the mists of time and the very act of filming the story allows for creative license and a certain amount of padding to take place.
Does this take away from the film or the true events.
Not in my humble opinion.
All this license and padding help to make the film a real “edge of your seat” viewing experience. Even though I remember the event very well, I still sat on the edge of my seat during at least part of the film worried that these six people were going to get caught! Even though I knew this I still tightened up during the market scene. And the airport?
Don’t even go there!
Affleck does a spectacular job of doing what I call, “A Columbo.”
In the 1970’s there was a weekly detective show called the NBC Mystery Movie. It featured several different detectives, McMillan & Wife, McCloud and Columbo. Now Columbo was different (and still is as far as I know) in that on his program, we the audience knew who the murderer was. The entertainment came from watching Columbo first figure out who it was and then trapping him or her by the show’s end.
ARGO uses a similar principle. We, the audience, know that the six people get out of Iran. Affleck has just shown how it all worked out. Great premise. Great enough to win the film an Oscar for Best Picture. Just not for Best Director, but, we won’t go there. Despite the obvious snub by the Academy, ARGO had all the right ingredients to be a hit.
Great story, great cast, great script and a great message. Okay a little too patriotic for some, but hey, you can’t please everyone. Just ask the Academy. I loved all the performances. John Goodman, Alan Arkin (I’ve been a fan since Freebie and the Bean), Affleck, Clea Duvall who I did not even recognise, and of course Bryan Cranston. I got completely excited when I realised that Malcom’s dad from Malcom in the Middle was going to be in this film. And playing a serious part.
But to get back on track here, I just have to say that I loved the film. So much so that now I’m going to have to see all the films that Ben Affleck has directed.
I am curious though, did anyone else have a special affinity with the film’s subject matter? This 1979 event changed my life. I joined the USAF as a result of the Embassy take over in Iran and my future was changed as a result. I probably would not be here typing this blog post, I’d be a cop in a small town somewhere or perhaps building houses.
If you were around “back then” let me know how you felt about the film.
- Review: Argo (2012) (monsterzeronj.wordpress.com)
- You Argo-ing to Want to See This. (methodby.wordpress.com)
- Canada and Iran’s varied responses to Ben Affleck’s Argo (thestar.com)
- Does Hollywood Owe It to Us to Get All of Its Historical Facts Straight? (jeremyhelligar.wordpress.com)
- Former Canadian ambassador to Iran Ken Taylor pleased Ben Affleck thanked Canada after winning Best Picture for ‘Argo’ (news.nationalpost.com)
- Oscar Winners in Review – Argo (thepageboywrites.com)
- Argo * * * * (mrmarakai.wordpress.com)
- Film Review: Argo – A heart makes the hero (journalismdada.wordpress.com)
- Argo keeps faith with history (smh.com.au)
- How a Wired magazine story became Ben Affleck’s “Argo” (boingboing.net)