There may be no more harrowing experience than being isolated in an angry, uncontrolled foreign country.
This is precisely what happened in Iran in 1979 when the United States embassy was stormed and dozens of diplomats were taken hostage, threatened with execution for espionage.
Ben Affleck captures this terror in a tight, intelligent movie about six Americans who escaped the U.S. embassy, taking refuge in the Canadian ambassador’s home, and the CIA clandestine efforts to extract them from an overtly hostile nation.
The movie crackles with tension.
Affleck plays Tony Mendez, the Agency’s lead exfiltration expert; he removes people from tight places. In this case, he initiates a plan to go into Tehran as a Canadian movie producer and come out with the six Americans as part of his manufactured production team.
The Iranians are no fools, so Mendez contrives the filming of a Canadian-made movie, “Argo” – a Star Wars rip-off. He uses Hollywood contacts to develop a script, storyboards, and press clippings. He fabricates roles for the Americans, who are terrified to leave the protection of the embassy. He then coolly flies into Tehran and quickly integrates the six diplomats as part of his team researching movie locations.
The tension builds over the course of several different story lines – the anger and chaos on the Tehran streets; the personal dynamics of the six diplomats; conflicts and bureaucracy within CIA and at the State Department; the fact that the six have been identified as missing from the U.S. embassy roll-call.
Every minute of this movie has its own drama, its own way of keeping you on edge.
“Argo” exemplifies art imitating life. It is a great movie, highly recommended for its script, direction, story continuity, and a cast of terrific character actors.
Jim Wigge is a retired engineer, Cazenovia resident and film-aficionado, who reviews movies for the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached through the editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.