In 1979, the American embassy in Iran was invaded by Iranian revolutionaries and several Americans are taken hostage. However, six manage to escape to the official residence of the Canadian Ambassador and the CIA is eventually ordered to get them out of the country. With few options, exfiltration expert Tony Mendez devises a daring plan: to create a phony Canadian film project looking to shoot in Iran and smuggle the Americans out as its production crew.
With the help of some trusted Hollywood contacts, Mendez creates the ruse and proceeds to Iran as its associate producer. However, time is running out with the Iranian security forces closing in on the truth while both his charges and the White House have grave doubts about the operation themselves.
First off I had no idea what this movie was about before I went to go see it, I had actually never heard of it before so I had no pre conceived ideas about it. The thing I liked about this movie while watching it, was knowing that it was based on actual events, and sure there have been the odd thing that wasn't exactly true like the claim the kiwis wouldn't help them, but it is something so small in a movie that is really really good.
It doesn't need to rely on special effects or crazy stuff, it focuses on a turbulent period of time and draws you in for the whole movie, it does this well with good acting and a good story. This has to be one of the most tense movies I have seen in a long time, and near the end it is almost too much to bear as you are waiting to see if they can pull of their daring plan.
If you do see this movie and get the chance to see the actual behind the scenes documentary which was being shown on Sky you will realise how great this film is, and how much they got the likeness to the real people involved.
Definitely a film to check out and worthy of the awards it has received.
Having been around when all this was going on, and living with a father who was always up-to-date on international political news, I grew up with this scandal as some of my early childhood memories. I recall, with detail, the theories - both crackpot and plausible - that were flying around at the time. That it was the Canadians who pulled off the master stroke was something no-one in Dad's social circles ever really believed, and the most credible theory was that it was the Americans. Thanks to that ever-present "6 degrees of separation" effect, it was known by some that the Kiwis actually played a big part, not so much in the actual escape, but in the supply-chain that allowed the Canadian Ambassador to keep the escapees hidden for so many months.
Having entered the plush Hoyts Te Awa cinema with full expectations of another cheesy spy flick that would aggrandise the American ego in some over-the-top way, I was stunned by the opening scenes. Tension was ratcheted up almost immediately, and it stayed high through the entire movie. Many times I found myself sitting there, hands clenched into fists, whispering "C'mon, c'mon, hurry up! They're going to catch you, move it!" or alternately "Go on, trip over you b*stard, slow down, stumble... I don't care just take more time!" For me, such antics in a movie are rare indeed. Most of the time it's a simple matter to internalise all this so as not to disturb other patrons... but having noticed almost everyone else doing it too, I didn't feel so bad about my soto-voce mumbles.
Talk about having a risky trifecta... you not only have the lead actor and key protagonist being played by the Director, but you also have a storyline that is well documented and thus any deviations are going to be immediately glaring, and you also have a movie that is trying to balance on that knife-edge between not enough tension and too much... and I was pleasantly surprised to find a movie that managed to pull it all off with only a few significant wobbles, but no train-wreck moments. Wobble #1 for me was the single comment "...the Kiwis won't help..." - that annoyed me, because the NZ Ambassador of the time put the lives of everyone under his command at risk by assisting as best they could. However, it was such a tiny utterance, and though it could have easily been left out or changed to be somewhat generic, it was a tiny pothole in the highway of the story. Wobble #2 was simply that in places the tension was a tad over-done... still, not so far as to ruin the plot and turn it into cheese sauce with extra corn. It was certainly well worth going to see, and I am very glad I changed my mind at the last minute about what to see that night! (I had been planning on seeing Alex Cross, but bumped that to this coming Friday night.)
Overall, though it is always a gamble to mess with a factual, historically documented event and attempt to dramatise it - you risk twisting fact too far and snapping it off into fiction - this was as close as we may ever get to knowing the full story behind the Argo exfiltration (translation: top-secret rescue mission). That it all came about because of a phone conversation between the protagonist and his young son and both tuning their TVs to a late-night sci-fi movie is just brilliant. Inspiration comes from some of the most commonplace situations meeting a difficult problem and triggering some out-of-the-box ideas - this is something I believe in strongly. Call it the School of MacGyver if you will. So, despite a small slight to my national pride, I was very pleased to see Ben Affleck back on the big screen in something I genuinely enjoyed for the first time since "Paycheck".
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