The frenzied mob breached the American Embassy’s wall in Iran on November 4, 1979.
And the world held its breath for 444 days.
I held my breath, too, as I watched the re-enactment of the terrifying scene in the new release, Argo, brought to the screen by director and star, Ben Affleck.
But Argo is not the tale of the hostage crisis as it was related publicly back in 1979. Rather, it’s the incredible true story of an unbelievable scheme to rescue six Americans who managed to escape to the Canadian Embassy as the American Embassy came under siege.
The six holed up with the Canadian Ambassador and his wife while the American Department of Defense hashed through bad idea after bad idea to get them home. Finally, CIA exfiltration expert Tony Mendez comes up with a plan so absurd that it just might work: have the six Americans pose as a Canadian film crew scouting locations for a science fiction movie. The title of both the fictional movie and Affleck’s film–Argo. As Affleck’s boss, played by a spot-on Bryan Cranston, says in the movie, this is “the best bad idea we have.”
So, with government approval, Mendez proceeds to secure a script and a producer, set up a phony production office, create publicity in the media and fashion false identities and papers for the six Americans before flying into Iran and attempting an escape with the terrified group.
The movie somehow manages to be all things: tense, terrifying and even funny. Asked what “Argo” means, an exasperated Alan Arkin, the movie’s fake producer, blusters, “Argo f**k yourself!” a rallying cry repeated throughout the movie.
Affleck is stellar, as are Arkin and John Goodman–the Hollywood team that helps him pull off the impossible. Of course, they do pull it off, but even though we went into the theater with the absolute knowledge that the mission was a success, my husband and I were all but screaming at the screen by the film’s end. “For God’s sake, get on the damn plane!”
Eventually Mendez was honored for his clandestine work, although the mission remained classified until the Clinton administration.
Argo is a must see. As a movie, it works on every level, including that of a feel-good film that will make you proud to be an American. See the trailer below.