‘Argo’ Entertains, Inspires…and Enlightens

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Written by: Sandra Neri

Director/Producer/Actor-Ben Affleck released his new film ‘Argo’ this month. Based on the book The Master of Disguise by Antonio J. Mendez(ex CIA Specialist), and the real events that lead to the rescue of six Americans from Iran. This event would come to be known around the world as the ‘Iran Hostage Crisis’. The film takes place in 1979, while Mendez (Played by Ben Affleck) was still working with the CIA, during which a group of Iranians took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran (Capitol of Iran), and held the staff there hostage. Six American diplomats managed to escape the embassy before it was taken over, and were aided by the Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor (played by Victor Garber) who hid them in his nearby residence.  Agent Mendez was brought in to consult on the rescue procedures, and while he did not approve of any purposed rescue plans, he did not have an immediate plan of his own. While watching an episode of ‘Planet of the Apes’ on television, Mendez came upon the idea to go into Iran and sneak the six Americans out as a Canadian film crew who are there in Iran to scout locations for an upcoming science-fiction movie titled  ‘Argo’. Although the CIA was not sure this plan would work, it was better than any they already had.

Agent Mendez enlisted the help of John Chambers (Make-up Artist) played by John Goodman, and a producer named Lester Siegel played by Alan Arkin. Chambers and Siegel pull together to make Mendez’s’ fake movie production idea seem as real as possible. Based on some files Mendez had on the six Americans, he created phony names and character profiles for the them to memorize. Six phony passports, and one long plane ride later, Mendez arrived in Tehran to teach them their new identities.  By this time, the Iranians who took over the embassy were piecing together all of the data they had seized, and were coming close to figuring out some of the office staff is missing. So time was yet another key factor. To make matters worse, the CIA were having second thoughts and had considered aborting the plan, and wanted to just go in by force. If you think that my revealing these important aspects of the film will ruin any suspense, you are wrong. You will still be on the edge of your seat.

‘Argo’ will not only enlighten those who have no recollection of these events, due to the fact that it took place some 33 years ago, it will also entertain them. ‘Argo’ moves along at a good pace which keeps you interested, and completely inside the story at all times. Beautiful cinematography, jarring images from news footage of that era, and quick editing style contribute to the delivery of a compelling story that very much needed to be told…again. Nothing but stellar performances in ‘Argo’, and Affleck is executing some serious directing skills. I am predicting a few Oscar nominations (at least!). With the soon to be released ‘Lincoln’ (directed by Steven Spielberg and starring every brilliant actor on the planet), and ‘Flight’ (directed by Robert Zemeckis, and starring Denzel Washington) it will not be an easy choice for the Academy as these two films are also inspired by true events. May the best film win…

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