Argodirected by Ben Affleck is the story about six Americans who are taken in by the Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor and his wife Pat, and the rescue attempt by the CIA. The film is based on the US hostage crisis in Iran in 1979. The film is quick to ignore many of the people that helped and has many inaccuracies that make its credibility questionable. Argo is a memorable film with many awards but forgets the people that helped get them there in the first place.
So quick plot summary: Ben Affleck plays Tony Mendez a CIA operative who travels to Tehran to rescue the six-trapped diplomats. The outline of the mission is they are a film crew trying to find a location for a new sci-fi film. They are in a race against time to flee the country and avoid the authorities.
This film is created for those who like suspenseful movies. According to IMDB it falls into the genre of biography/drama/thriller. This film does those genres justice and it really does keep the audience hooked from start to finish. I would recommend this movie to the general public because it is well done. The purpose of this movie is to shed light on the Iranian hostage crisis that many people do not know about. It is successful and reaches its goal regardless of making it very Americanized.
I will start off by saying that if you are watching it for entertainment purposes it is a good movie. It is rated 7.7/10 on IMDB and has won many awards for its portrayal of events. This however does not take away from the fact that many things have been changed or are missing from the storyline. The Canadian role is significantly downplayed and the filmmakers neglect to mention the role that the Swedish played. We are going to start by talking about the casting choices. Ben Affleck a white American actor is cast to in the role of Tony Mendez, who might I add is of Hispanic origins. Like what? Can someone please explain that choice to me because clearly I am not understanding. The rest of the casting is pretty spot on. The casting director does a great job at finding people that look the part and could honestly be twins with the real person. Also real life John Chambers kind of looks like Ross Matthews and I love it, I’m also getting serious Dwight Schrute vibes from Lee Schatz.
Next we will move onto the plot itself and the choices made by the filmmakers. Surprise surprise an American movie about an American rescue downplays the role of the other countries that were involved, how convenient. The movie completely ignores the Swedish role in helping the six Americans find shelter and safety. Like how the fuck do you just forget to mention a country that played a key role in saving these people? Yes we get it America you had this elaborate plan to create a fake movie and save your people but without those who helped you, you would be fucked, stop being a narcissistic asshole. I digress. Argo makes it seem that the six Americans are together right from the start and go directly to the Canadian embassy. This however is not the case. Lee Schatz went to seek refuge at the Swedish embassy, while the other members of the group went to Robert Anders’ house to seek temporary refuge. Anders calls John Sheardown asking for help and shelter to avoid persecution. Now our Canadian hero Ken Taylor heard of the crisis and immediately started working with John Sheardown a fellow Canadian diplomat to help the six Americans. Taylor immediately agreed to help the escapees and separated the group between his residence and the Sheardown residence. And as if we didn’t love Ken Taylor enough already, he orchestrated the removal of over 800 Canadians when he knew the situation in Tehran was getting worse. After a few days the Swedish ambassador asked Taylor to take in Lee Schatz and Taylor agreed thinking that Schatz would be able to portray a Canadian better than a Swede. Finally we hear from Tony Mendez. He is tasked with creating a way for the American escapees to flee Iran. He travels to Hollywood to create a fake film studio and begins to work out the details of the film and the rescue mission.
We will return to the inaccuracies in a minute but let’s talk about the truths of the movie. It is true that Mendez came up with the film idea on his own and the CIA decided to accept this as the official rescue mission. The catchphrase “Argo fuck yourself” was also used in real life. This phrase would be used in the CIA office to ease the tension of working long hours and the stress they were feeling. It was a running joke in the movie started by Lester but in reality it was created by John Chambers, regardless this was one of the true facts the movie gets right. The script, storyboards and even the full-page ad in Variety magazine were all created in real life to make the story more believable. Even Studio 6productions became so convincing that they received numerous scripts to produce. The film also portrays Pat Taylor, Ken’s wife receiving strange phone calls. The fear of the unknown became real when she received a call asking for Joe Stafford, Pat told the unidentified caller she had never heard of Joe Stafford and that they should call her husband. Like in the film Tony Mendez made the group learn and memorize their cover identities. They did a mock interrogation in order to help the group perform under pressure and eliminate the risk of blowing their cover.
Moving back to the falsities of the film, these next few examples were choices made by the creative team to make the film more entertaining and exciting. As much as I would like to be upset about this I can’t be because without it the film wouldn’t be as entertaining. I need to constantly remind myself that the general population probably likes entertainment and probably doesn’t get as enraged about inaccuracies as I do. The scene where they travel into town to scout locations didn’t happen in real life. This is used to create suspense and fear for the characters and is a creative device used to show how the Americans were seen in Iran at the time. This allows the audience to wonder what is going to happen and wonder if the six will ever escape. The next area of suspense is created in the airport. The issue with the plane tickets never occurred, they didn’t have any trouble checking in. The goal of this was to put the viewer on the edge of their seat making them feel the emotions of the characters. There was also no interrogation or holding of the Americans. The film shows the group having to explain what they are doing and the security at the airport needing to call the film studio. The filmmakers want the viewer to feel as many different emotions as possible building into a big sigh of relief when they make it off the runway after being chased and clear Iranian airspace. These devices create a better viewing experience and make the film more entertaining.
In regards to my opinion of the film I don’t hate it. It is a really great movie for anyone who likes this type of film. As I looked more in depth at the film I did start to lose a little respect for it but that is only because I am analyzing and critiquing it. The things that I think really work are the decisions of the creators. Adding in some details just to move the plot forward and keep the viewer on the edge of their seat is a smart choice. This way the viewer doesn’t lose interest and they really want to find out what happens next. I still however do not like the fact that the Americans downplayed the role of the other countries. This was a joint effort and without the help of the other countries the American rescue would not have gone as smoothly, but to each there own, that’s just my opinion.
Argois successful at creating an entertaining story for those who enjoy this type of film. As a history major I do like the film but I would have preferred if everyone got the credit they deserved. I know that when making a film there are time constraints that need to be addressed and not everything can be included. I do not believe that it was right to exclude the Swedes and make it seem like it was all an American mission and that Tony Mendez singlehandedly saved everyone. If I were to rate it I would give it a 6/10 but that is purely based on my analysis of how historically accurate it is. I do still enjoy the film however, and would still recommend it to people and encourage them to watch it, which is the main goal of the film. I see what you did there Ben Affleck, well played my friend, well played.
Affleck, Ben, dir. Argo. 2012; Burbank, CA: Warner Bros. Pictures, 2013. DVD.
Government of Canada. “Ken Taylor and the Canadian Caper”. Global Affairs Canada. Last Modified July 10, 2013. http://international.gc.ca/history-histoire/people-gens/ken_taylor.aspx?lang=eng
History Vs Hollywood. “Argo (2012)”. Accessed April 8, 2018. http://www.historyvshollywood.com/reelfaces/argo.php
Houpt, Simon. “Ken Taylor Sets the Record Straight About Argo’s Take on the “Canadian Caper””. The Globe and Mail. February 25, 2013.
The Internet Movie Database. “Argo”. Accessed April 5, 2018. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1024648/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1