We check out the hottest film of the moment…
Directed by Ben Affleck, Argo is set with the backdrop of the 1979/80 Iranian uprising, in which the Shah of Iran [Mohammad Reza Pahlavi] has been overthrown by the public after years of tyranny and oppression. The Shah of Iran escaped the uprising and was granted exile in the United States, much to the anger of the Iranian people who want to see the Shah brought to justice. The move to shelter the Shah angers the Iranian people and thousands take to the streets of Tehran in mass demonstrations with the culmination of the U.S. embassy being stormed and more than 50 of its staff being held hostage by the Iranian Militia. Six of the Embassy staff promptly escaped to the backstreets of Tehran where they eventually seek refuge at the Canadian Ambassador’s home. Now they need to be rescued, but the airports are blockade and U.S. and Shah sympathisers are being publically executed in the streets. The question for the US government is simple… how the hell to they get them out?
This is a gripping and exciting film and you’ll thoroughly enjoy. The film follows Tony Mendez (Affleck), a CIA operative, as he formulates a plan to get the hostages home; the plan is for Mendez to pose as a Canadian film maker [the 6 escapees eventually pose as his crew] who is looking to use Iran for movie called Argo – a sci-fi movie- that requires an ‘exotic’ location… but will it work?
Although the film is excellent it couldn’t be described as a heavyweight political thriller and at times the historical facts have been changed to add drama and suspense. For example the hostages never left the Canadian ambassadors house to go to the local bazaar, nor were they turned away from both the British and New Zealand embassies. The British ambassador actually hosted the Americans originally but it was decided it was too high-risk to keep them there. In fact the portrayal of the British and NZ diplomats as being spineless angered many involved.
In his deference Affleck wrote in the Daily 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."
Filmmakers and directors have to make decisions about the flow of their movie and adding in these actualities would have slowed down the pace somewhat. After all the film is only based on a true story. Affleck appears to try to be as true to the actual story as he could and he attempts to show this at the end by comparing ‘real’ photos from the events of 1979 and movie screen shots of the same scenes. For the most part he seems to have achieved the replication and effect.
Overall this is a an exciting and riveting film and an excellent effort from someone who may yet prove to be a finer director than actor.
Ben Affleck, John Goodman, Alan Arkin