Argo (2012)
October 5, 2022 6:54 AM - Subscribe

On Nov. 4, 1979, militants storm the U.S. embassy in Tehran, Iran, taking 66 American hostages. Amid the chaos, six Americans manage to slip away and find refuge with the Canadian ambassador. Knowing that it's just a matter of time before the refugees are found and likely executed, the U.S. government calls on extractor Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) to rescue them. Mendez's plan is to pose as a Hollywood producer scouting locations in Iran and train the refugees to act as his "film" crew.

Also starring Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Victor Garber, Tate Donovan, Clea DuVall, Scoot McNairy, Rory Cochrane, Christopher Denham, Kerry Bishé, Kyle Chandler, Chris Messina, Zeljko Ivanek, Titus Welliver, Bob Gunton, and Richard Kind.

Directed by Ben Affleck. Screenplay by Chris Terrio.

96% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

Currently streaming in the US on HBO Max. Also available for digital rental on multiple servies. JustWatch listing.
posted by DirtyOldTown (14 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
My understanding is that the movie is not terribly accurate to real life, but man, they really managed to turn it into a tense movie. I remember coming out of the theatre with physical pain in my face from how tightly I had been clenching my jaw. The runway chase was ridiculous enough to kind of take away from the overall feeling of realism, but by that point, my teeth needed the relief anyway.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:16 AM on October 5, 2022 [2 favorites]

As I understand it, there are a variety of criticisms about the film's accuracy, even as people involved in the situation generally praise the way it relates the drama of the events.

The film minimizes the involvement of Taylor and the Canadians, for one. Since Affleck had more access to the American side of things and needed to streamline for the screen, that may be somewhat understandable. There were also some complaints about casting Affleck as Mendez and Clea DuVall as Cora Lijetz (who is of Japanese descent). Although in the case of the former, the real-life Mendez says he does not identify as Hispanic and liked the casting.

There has also been some criticism that the film paints the Iranian people with a broad brush, and not always kindly. That said, the film is widely bootlegged in Iran and is seen as having popularity for the way it portrays the excesses of the revolution and the hostage crisis, which had been long glorified in Iran.

There are other things that were changes form the facts, like the New Zealand embassy turning people away, but again, dramatic license.

I am inclined to view the film's factual liberties as part of the limitations of a 2 hour film versus say, a six hour tv series.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:23 AM on October 5, 2022 [4 favorites]

One of the things I liked about this movie was Afflec's character attempting to sell the exfiltration to various suits, all of whom thought they could come up with a better idea on their own.

I think anybody who's worked in a bureaucracy, and been good at something not adequately valued, can relate to those scenes.
posted by entropone at 8:36 AM on October 5, 2022 [3 favorites]

The Wikipedia article has a very thorough rundown of the differences between the real-life events and the movie. (The movie was based on an article in Wired, but it's paywalled now.) I found the situation fascinating because a) the script for the fake movie was based off of Roger Zelazny's Lord of Light (with set designs by Jack Kirby!), and b) there were a bunch of cheesy Star Wars rip-offs produced in the late seventies, such as Battle Beyond the Stars (which nonetheless had an impressive crew: John Sayles, James Horner, James Cameron) and Starcrash, which was filmed in Italy (about which co-star Christopher Plummer said, "Give me Rome any day. I'll do porno in Rome, as long as I can get to Rome."). The few glimpses we get of the "Argo" costumes and sets really get that feel of the Flash-Gordon-on-the-producer's-credit-card type of B movie.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:58 AM on October 5, 2022 [4 favorites]

I really enjoyed this movie the first time around - and I am grateful for the introduction to Scoot McNary and Kerry Bishé, who were so good together in Halt and Catch Fire - but on rewatching that last frantic chase scene is a little much and feels like an unnecessarily Hollywood flourish.

The scene just before that - where Scoot McNairy's character is going through storyboards in Farsi with a skeptical army guy - is one that I still go back to sometimes. Terrific performances all around.
posted by AgentRocket at 8:59 AM on October 5, 2022 [2 favorites]

Since Affleck had more access to the American side of things and needed to streamline for the screen, that may be somewhat understandable.

Well, and he was making a movie for Americans. Of course he wasn't going to make the Canadians the heroes.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:02 AM on October 5, 2022 [1 favorite]

with set designs by Jack Kirby!

I once thought this impossible. Then I saw Thor: Ragnarok. Sakaar is pure Kirby from the weird-ass slaver ship, to the giant heads on the champion arena, to the interior design ("Pick a color!"), to the "melt stick." Hail to the King, baby!
posted by SPrintF at 10:38 AM on October 5, 2022 [1 favorite]

What I wrote when I saw Argo for the first time in April of this year:

The Good
Production values were top-notch. The extras did a fantastic job. "Argo" felt like what Tehran must have felt after the revolution—dangerous.

The Bad
The plot is fairly generic. Super-spy with domestic troubles. A plan so far out there that it has to work (which is even noted by a character in the movie). The old Hollywood types getting in one last hurrah. Conflict between the super-spy and one of his charges. The White House getting cold feet. A last-minute, desperate chase scene. "Argo" may have done it well, but it didn't break any new ground either.

Also, despite "Argo" clocking in at two hours on Netflix, it really breezed along, almost too fast I think for the kind of movie it was trying to be.

The Ugly
Yeah, reading about the true story, Ben Affleck was a dick for dumping pretty much everyone else's contributions to the Canadian Caper in the name of poetic license. As they said in the movie, "Argo fuck yourself."
posted by Stuka at 10:50 AM on October 5, 2022

This was an enjoyable night at the movies, but these two things have really stuck with me:

First, Alan Arkin's delivery of "If I'm doing a fake movie, it's gonna be a fake hit"

And most of all, the incredible dramatic irony of the housekeeper's happy ending being that she gets to emigrate from Iran... to Iraq
posted by Zonker at 2:30 PM on October 5, 2022

It's sad to me how often "dramatic license" in historical dramas defaults to personalities over communities, and Americans-as-heroes over international collaboration. It's not as bad as U-571, but Argo's message is still clear: Americans will accept help but American mythology requires local heroes.
posted by Paragon at 3:52 PM on October 5, 2022 [1 favorite]

I have a lot of fondness for this movie because it's one of the few movies I've seen in the cinema completely blind. I normally go to the movies with a certain amount of foreknowledge, but decided to go see a movie, saw what was on, and went to the best-rated one.
posted by Merus at 5:19 PM on October 5, 2022

Show of hands: Who would like to watch just a show of John Goodman and Alan Arkin hanging out in that office and shooting the shit together?
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 6:11 PM on October 5, 2022 [4 favorites]

Well, and he was making a movie for Americans.

Specifically, he was making a movie where Hollywood was the hero. If you want to win industry awards, well, pander to the industry.

Meanwhile, for the rest of the world, it's pretty on the nose to make a movie where Hollywood is merely a covert extension of the CIA.
posted by peeedro at 9:54 PM on October 5, 2022 [3 favorites]

Can’t believe Ben Affleck included that shot of his abs. So ridiculous.

Also, they really only needed to say Argo Fuck Yourself once, mayyyybe twice.
posted by iamkimiam at 12:01 AM on October 8, 2022 [1 favorite]

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