Argo is a 2012 American drama / thriller film based on real events that happened during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. The events of the film are adapted from U.S. Central Intelligence Agency operative Tony Mendez’s book The Master of Disguise and Joshuah Bearman’s 2007 Wired article ‘The Great Escape’. Mendez was the CIA operative who went into Iran to rescue 6 American diplomats who managed to evade the hostage takeover at the US embassy in Tehran. Ben Affleck stared & directed Argo which he also co-produced along with George Clooney & Grant Heslov. The movie also stars Victor Garber, Tate Donovan, Clea Duvall, Christopher Denham, Kerry Bishe with Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, and John Goodman in supporting roles. Kyle Chandler & Keith Szarabajka have smaller roles as well.
After the Persian Shah is deposed by the Iranian Revolution, the Iranian people conduct mass protests outside the US embassy in Tehran in retaliation for the support that the US government gave to the Shah and giving him asylum after he lost power. With demands that he be brought back to Iran to stand trial Iranians storm the embassy just as the diplomats inside shred and burn as much documents and identification of staff members as possible. 50 employees are taken hostage against gun point but 6 manage to escape through the back entrance and into the street. After being turned away by the British and New Zealand embassies, the 6 refugees are hidden & sheltered at the home of the Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor and his wife. The status of the 6 refugees are kept secret but US State dept looks for means to bring them back safely. CIA ex-filtration specialist Tony Mendez is brought in to the discussion and although he is at a loss to to come up with a proposal he dismissed all the ones at the table. However when he is talking with his son over the telephone that night he is inspired by watching Battle for the Planet of the Apes and begins plans for creating a cover story for the escapees being Canadian filmmakers scouting for exotic locations in Iran for a similar science-fiction film.
With help from John Chambers, a Hollywood makeup artist who has assisted the CIA with disguises before, he gets in touch with film producer Lester Siegel. Together they set up a phony film studio, publicize their plans, and successfully establish the pretense of developing Argo, a “science fantasy” in the style of Star Wars, to lend credibility to the cover story. Meanwhile at the embassy the revolutionaries being reassembling the shredded papers & documents, while tormenting the hostages. Posing as the Canadian producer for the movie Tony Mendez comes to Iran and meets up with the 6 refugees at Ambassador Taylot’s house. He provides them with Canadian passports and fake identities to prepare them to get through security at the airport. After much distrust and fear over the plan, they decide to go along with it knowing that they can’t stay hidden at the house forever. A scouting visit to the bazaar to maintain their cover story takes a bad turn, but their Iranian culture contact gets them away from the hostile crowd. Tony grills the 6 on their fake identities, cover stories and past to prepare them. However the night before their getaway is planned, Tony is told that the he operation has been cancelled to avoid conflicting with a planned military rescue of the hostages. However he decides to forge ahead forcing his boss Jack O’Donell to to hastily re-obtain authorization for the mission to get tickets on a Swissair flight.
At the airport tensions arise where the escapees’ flight reservations are confirmed at the last minute and a interrogation guard’s call to the supposed studio in Hollywood is answered at the last second. It also took a moment of courage by one of the 6 to start speaking in Farsi and convey the storyline of the movie to the guards, making it seem like the scifi-fantasy story is similar to the way the Shah was deposed. Just as the plane is taking off their ruse is uncovered and the Iranian guards head to stop the plane but they fail to do so and the 7 Americans can heave sighs of relief and joy. To protect the hostages remaining in Tehran from retaliation, all U.S. involvement in the rescue is suppressed, giving full credit to the Canadian government and its ambassador (who left Iran with his wife under their own credentials as the operation was underway; their Iranian housekeeper, who had known about the Americans and lied to the revolutionaries to protect them, escaped to Iraq). All the hostages were freed on January 20, 1981. Mendez is secretly awarded the Intelligence Award by the President but has to give it back and keep it a secret until 1997 when the details were publicized in 1997.
The movie has made a lot of adjustments to the story; some critics said that it unfairly glorified the CIA’s role and minimized the Canadian government’s role (particularly that of Ambassador Taylor) in the extraction operation. Even president Jimmy Carter declared that 90% of the ideas & planning were Canadian and that Affleck’s character was in Iran for just a day and a half and that Ambassador Taylor, who orchestrated the entire process, was the main hero. The film was criticized for its claim that British and New Zealand Embassies had turned away the American refugees in Tehran and Bob Anders, one of the 6, said that the British put their lives on the lines for the refugees. In reality the scouting trip & the bazaar and the tense moments at the airport regarding the tickets and the interrogation never happened and neither did the chase at the runway. But Hollywood is…..Hollywood :) You have to take the inaccuracies with a pinch of salt. 8 outta 10 for me!