Argo, A Movie Review

Before I start listing the things that are wrong with the film Argo, let me say that I enjoyed it.  The problem I have with movies that are based on  “true” stories is that the scriptwriters and directors, in order to enhance the suspense, bulldoze the “truth.”  So I fear that many movie goers will think that Argo is an accurate representation of history, but it aparently is not.  The issue, for me, becomes how much “liberty” should scriptwriters and directors take?

There is no good answer to this question.  But for me personally, the screenwriter and director for Argo took a few too many liberties, particularly toward the end of the film, and not all of them were entirely necessary for a good action movie.  According to Ben Affeck, the movie’s director and star,

Because we say it’s based on a true story, rather than this is a true story, we’re allowed to take some dramatic license.  There is a spirit of truth.

But frequently the “truth’ is more interesting that the movie script, but aparently not in this case.

The movie takes an unnecessary poke at the embassy staffs of New Zealand and England for no apparent reason.  It also puts the Carter Administration in a bad light.  Which may or may not be warranted.  And others have argued that the Canadians should have gotten more credit than they did, and the CIA less.

In case you have been asleep for the last few months, the film deals with the rescue of 6 Americans who were hiding in the home of the Canadian Ambassador in Iran.  The Americans had successfully escaped the takeover of the U.S. Embassy by Islamic militants in 1979.  The Canadians successfully hid the escapees for several months. 

The CIA was tasked with getting the “Tehran 6” out of Iran.  The idea proposed by a CIA extraction specialist was to use as a cover the making of a fake sci-fi movie (called “Argo”) to be filmed in Iran.  The idea was deemed stupid, but no one could come up with a better plan.  The successful “Argo” operation stayed top secret until President Clinton declassified it in 1997.

Affleck, the actor, is very good in his role as the CIA extraction specialist.  All the supporting cast is excellent, but I particularly enjoyed John Goodman and Alan Arkin (they play Hollywood insiders).  Affleck nicely underplays his role, and this lets Goodman and Arkin ham it up.  The movie takes quite a few funny pokes at Hollywood.  It also deals the with problems of bureaucracy when trying to undertake a clandestine operation.

For me, the end of the movie is problematic.  In the film, while getting the would-be hostages to the airport and on the plane, the escapees encounter all kinds of roadblocks and near misses with authorities, too many to be credible.  Apparently, the real would-be hostages encountered hardly any trouble.  This alteration of “fact” enhances the suspense nicely, but after awhile I started to roll my eyes.  However, here’s another reviewer’s opinion:  “And if the jacked-up climax, with its narrow escapes and chase down the tarmac, doesn’t jibe with reality, don’t sweat it.  That’s Hollywood.”

It’s nice to see an action movie that is relatively bloodless.  Argo received excellent reviews and is rated R, largely for language.

Recommendation:  Rent it.

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