It’s always interesting, as one who loves movies, to see movies about making other movies. With Ben Affleck’s Argo, a movie based on a true story of pretending to make a “fake movie” that never existed in the first place, it gets even more interesting.
So the film starts by giving us some political background about the situation in Iran (which I definitely needed, history expert that I am). Politics have been unstable in Iran for a long time; basically the country just changes from oppressor to oppressor. The US sets up one, then the Iranians overthrow him and elect their own. The US has sworn to protect the dictator they put in place, which the Iranians are not too happy about. They want him back so they can put him on trial/hang him in the streets. To accomplish this, they take the US embassy by force and everybody inside hostage. However, six employees managed to escape out the back before the crowd fully took over the embassy, and now they are secretly hiding out in the Canadian ambassador’s house, unable to move.
Because the six made it out of the embassy, you might be thinking that they made it to safety, but this is not actually the case. Americans are actually safer inside the embassy than outside of it; the media is so focused on the hostages that killing them will have gigantic consequences. Everyone will know about it, and the US will have to retaliate in some way. Iranians could kill the six that got away and nobody would know about it except… the CIA (and they’re not going to be telling).
So the State Department, with help from the CIA, tries to get the six out of Iran. After a lot of bad ideas get thrown around, including posing as agricultural specialists in the winter when there are no crops growing and bicycling an inordinate distance to the Iranian border, they decide to go with “the best bad idea [they] have” pitched by Tony Mendes (Ben Affleck). They are going to pretend to be scouting for a location to shoot a Star Wars knock off tilted Argo. They’re going to set it up in the States, Tony’s going to fly out to Iran as the associate producer, teach the six their cover stories, and simply fly back home. Crazy, right? It’s so crazy, it just might work! Which, apparently it did.
Argo is a pretty tense film, so it’s good that Affleck gives us some breaks from being about to be discovered hiding out in the Canadian ambassadors house and killed. He cuts back to both the CIA and Hollywood (or, as the sign says, “lly w od”). With Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) and John Chambers (John Goodman) helping out on the fake movie making side, we get some really good laughs. It’s always nice to see Hollywood making fun of itself. The CIA kind of does this as well, making comments on how inefficiently its run and how the State Department wants to take all the credit.
It’s interesting to see how politics and movies overlap. It’s a natural connection; both are public shows put on to convince people to spend money or votes. Even though we don’t like Hollywood or the government all the time, they really come through for us by the end of this film. Hollywood helps the CIA get six Americans home and out of perilous danger in Iran, and it works, despite all of the obstacles and bureaucracies in both systems.
I don’t know who to give credit to for this, but I also really loved the transitions between scenes. Parallel actions would be performed in different locations, and as one started, someone in another location would finish the same action. It was intriguing to watch and reinforced that everyone in the various locations was working to get the six home.
Argo was a great movie about a movie. Arguably the best thing was the knowledge that something like this did actually happen. I don’t know how much they changed, but I assume they changed some things. It’s pretty unbelievable that this scheme would ever work, which the movie tried to bring across. They were so many moments when it just barely worked and they were able to get away (maybe there were less of these in real life). I feel that if it wasn’t at least semi-true then I would just be like “this movie is just promoting the concept of movies” which is pretty much just depressing commercialism. Of course, this movie does love movies, that’s obvious. But because I love movies too and they put a lot more into it, I was fine with it.
“Ex-fils are like abortions. You don’t want to need one, but when you need one, you don’t want to do it yourself.”
Long story short: 3.5/4 stars
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