Palpable… Stupendous… Outrageous… and Manipulating…
Historically savaged and well plotted…
Phewwww what more words should I use to praise Ben Affleck’s subtle efforts in directing one of finest movies of Hollywood. 2012 movie ‘Argo’ was the winner of 3 Academy Awards including ‘Best Picture’ in the 85th Academy Awards.
‘Argo’ is based on true events related to ‘Iran Hostage Crisis’. This event came to uprising after overthrowing Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and return of Ruhollah Khomeini who later on, became country’s supreme leader and called the-then Jimmy Carter government ‘The Great Satan’.
According to Wikipedia sources, Fifty-two American diplomats and citizens were held hostage for 444 days (November 4, 1979, to January 20, 1981), after a group of Iranian students supporting the Iranian Revolution took over the US Embassy in Tehran. Six of the Americans survived the uproar and hid in Canadian Embassy. This is what the movie is all about.
The movie is an adapted screenplay of two different sources. One is adaptation from Tony Mendez’s book ‘The Master of Disguise’ written in 1999, which speaks about his secret life working with CIA, most specifically this event. The other source is Joshuah Bearman’s 2007 Wired article The Great Escape.
Ben Affleck’s central character Tony Mendez is a true character who did actually work for CIA for more than 25 years. He single-handedly attempted the most audacious escape along with those six Americans from Tehran in the political history of USA and CIA chapter. To bring the Americans back, Tony proposed an idea that no one could have ever imagined. He created a cover story about the Americans that they were the Canadian crew of film production who recently landed Tehran scouting exotic locations for a sci-fi film!!!
To make this fake story look real, Mendez contacted academy-award winning Hollywood make-up artist John Chambers (Star Trek, Planet of the Apes) to merge with a local film producer in establishing a film-production company (pocket-moneyed by CIA of course), so that they can publicize a fake StarWars-kinda movie under the name ‘Argo’ to produce an enough chance of reliability of fake sources in Tehran. Bravoooo!!!! Bravooo Mendez Bravooo!!! Who could have ever planned this??? Imagine the weight of convincing the government officials to permit him this bizarre idea to work on which if the operation somehow failed, can cause a world outrage or even become a national embarrassment of mishandling security of escapees on a high scale.
‘Argo’ is a drastic political thriller. The storytelling is a tremendous manifest and the flow of it is untiring. Operations in the movie are blood-boiling and hectic, specially the airport-scene in the last half an hour is where the adrenalin is beginning to make an impact on your blood circulation. This is one such complete movie where the beginning and ending scenes of the movie leave your eyeballs stare the screen and perturb. While the middle part is a scintillating presentation of socio-political drama. The viewer who grows deep in the movie will make himself/herself in escapee’s place for rest of the movie.
Dialogues are frank and goes more realistic in panic scenes. Cinematography is vivid as colors realistically represent the typical Persian outlook of the 70’s-80’s. Sound department and score of the movie is phenomenal. Casting? This is one of most impressive aspects of the movie because there lies a very minor difference between the real faces and the reel faces. Even many of critical scenes are true like the man on a height burning an american flag, press conference of the revolutionary group, death by hanging on a crane and many more.
Performances? Ben Affleck as actor-director of the movie has significantly done a highly justifying job. He is the one solely responsible for an amazing picture. Superb acting!!! ‘Breaking Bad’ fame Bryan Cranston is the second most impressive and I believe he deserved to be more popular and highly nominated than Alan Arkin as ‘Best Supporting Actor’ in many award functions.
I won’t say the events/scenes in the film are all 100% true. Simultaneously, I won’t deny the fictional nature of the movie, that also played a very prominent part. Tony Mendez’s idea of fake movie, Canadian film crew, fake advertising/publicity was all absolutely true. In this whole filmy idea and CIA operation, Alan Arkin’s character of Hollywood producer is the only which is actually fictional.
Thing which became controversy or shall I say ignored, was the contribution of Canadian Embassy in this escape. The Canadian efforts in the movie were very short and Affleck focused more on Mendez-material. The American escapees stayed at residences of the-then Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor and a Canadian embassy employee, John Sheardown. The latter character never appeared in the movie which is indeed very surprising. Four of six Americans resided in Sheardown’s house for 79 days.
But Ken Taylor is the man hugely responsible for making the Americans flew. He is the one who eared the US government officials to initiate an escape plan to bring the Americans back home. That wasn’t enough of his contribution, he even trained the Americans speak in Canadian accent and also bought the airline tickets for them. Ken Taylor’s role played by Victor Garber in the movie sounded like Alfred Pennyworth role to Bruce Wayne, short and mind your own business.
The blame on British and New Zealand embassies of not helping the escapees is untrue and despite those highly intensifying scenes at the airport, the bitter truth is that Mendez stated in his book a contrary. There were simply no complications at the airport and flew away with ease.
Historical accuracies and fictional behavior of film making are different things but to shoot them, you have to consider hundreds of times that what part should be included and what shouldn’t be. Keeping in mind the most critical aspects related to events were all true, Argo offers well-gripped spellbinding movie of its attained height. It is easy to relinquish a movie based on political thriller but Argo is a justification of conscience, for a viewer to decide on what part shall he/she flow and agree.
For more info on the true events and the best articles related to the movie, kindly click any of these:
Hollywood rewrites history again in Afflecks’ Argo.
This article below is one of the two bases mentioned above, on which Argo was made. This is a must read:
How the CIA used a fake Sci-Fi flick to rescue Americans from Tehran.
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