RELEASE DATE: October 25
is a fascinating story about one of the most unbelievable rescue missions in modern history.
What’s thoroughly believable, though, is the single lesson the characters take away from their ordeal.
In 1979 the world held its breath as Iranian revolutionaries overran the US embassy in Tehran, taking prisoner most of the staff and holding them hostage for 444 days. Argo
is based on the story of six American employees who managed to avoid the round up. Four men and two women slipped out a back gate and eventually made their way to the home of a Canadian consular official who sheltered them while the Iranian police went door to door. The Central Intelligence Agency faced the daunting task of extracting their citizens from a country that was just as likely to execute them as spies if discovered.
The plan they hit on proves once and for all that truth is stranger than fiction.
Ben Afleck directs and stars as CIA ‘exfiltration’ expert Tony Mendez. While his superiors are debating whether or not to give they hideaways bikes so they can cycle to Turkey, Mendez comes up with the plan to pass them off as a movie crew. With the help of his supervisor played by Bryan Cranston, Mendez co-opts real life make-up artist John Chambers (John Goodman) and noted producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) to help with his smokescreen. Together they launch the film ‘Argo’, a science fiction story told in a Middle Eastern setting. Chambers and Siegel then set about raising the profile of the picture while Mendez heads for Tehran. There he will attempt to train the fugitives in their role as location scouts, and hope the Iranians don’t look too closely when they head for home.
Afleck has done an excellent job recreating the tension of revolutionary Iran. There are several heart-stopping moments in the film that well serve the tension underlining this mostly true story. Of course Hollywood has played up the role of the American characters, generally to the detriment of the Canadians involved. But the result is a respectable reproduction of a truly audacious con. Watch the credits for a side-by-side comparison to see how carefully the film recreated key characters and key scenes – Ben is the only person who doesn’t look like his real life counterpart. But Afleck did go so far as to shoot Argo on regular film, then cut the frames in half and blow the images up by 200% to gain an extra grainy sense of the 70s. Many camera movements were also copied directly from All The Presidents Men to get the film feel for the time.
However it’s Argo’s secondary storyline that should leave audiences thinking. Woven throughout the rescue operations are characters thinking about the relationships that really matter in crises like these. Joe Stafford is one fugitive who realizes he put his new wife in the firing line for the sake of a career bump:
“Two months ago when this all started in the streets she begged me to leave and all I could think of was, ‘Stay. This is good for me.’”
Producer Lester Siegel also considers how his calling spelled curtains for his family, leaving him with a daughter he sees only twice a year. But Mendez, by comparison, risks never seeing his family again for the sake of reuniting others with their loved ones.
This is something I think we’re wired to appreciate – family love – and destined to admire – those who set it aside for the sake of others. And the more perfect that relationship, the more amazing the sacrifice becomes. It follows then that the more we appreciate what Jesus enjoyed with his Heavenly Father, the more thankful we will be that he set it aside for us. The sad side for a film like Argo though, is that most filmgoers will appreciate the echo of that very sentiment and never know where the real sound is coming from.