As many of you have probably seen or know, the movie Argo won Best Motion Picture of the Year at the 2013 Oscar’s. And to be honest, a lot of the movies that are nominated for the Oscar’s are not what you would call “popcorn” movies and they sometimes leave you with a question of “That’s what you think is good?”. Well I’m happy to say Argo is a popcorn movie and it definitely earned it’s spot in the Best Motion Picture of the Year.
I’m going to start this review a little differently. I usually wait until the end of my reviews to post what my “star” value is but I think I’ve already made it clear that I really enjoyed this movie. My rating is 9 out of 10 stars. I thought the movie was just a little bit longer than I would’ve liked but in the end, it tells the story to the best ability and the flow is very good. Plus if you know anything about the original story, you know that the idea of seeing this “Argo” being made into a real movie is kinda of hilarious.
Alright, now my typical disclaimer. If you haven’t seen the movie Argo and you want too, then please read this with the warning of spoilers. I will not be responsible for “ruining” something for you if you are going to continue to read. You’ve been warned.
To begin, I want to first say that like any Hollywood movie, they of course have to make things a little bit more dramatic in order to make a good movie. Keep in mind that the movie Argo follows the basic information of what happened originally. And for those of you who don’t know what happened, I will give you a quick history listen of how it began (via Wikipedia).
Iranian activists storm the United States embassy in Tehran on November 4, 1979, in retaliation for President Jimmy Carter giving the Shah asylum in the U.S. during the Iranian Revolution. More than 50 of the embassy staff are taken as hostages, but six escape and hide in the home of the Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor.
Jumping into the movie right now, we are introduced to the six people that have escaped into the Canadian ambassador’s care. They are Bob Anders (played by Tate Donovan), Joe (played by Scoot McNairy) and Kathy Stafford (played by Kerry Bishe), Mark (played by Christopher Denham) and Cora Lijek (played by Clea DuVall), and Lee Schatz (played by Rory Cochrane). They are staying inside, not wanting to show their faces in few of being attacked by the known rebellion that was taking place. Instead they hide and hope that someone will come rescue them.
Back in the United States, we are introduced to Tony Mendez (played by Ben Affleck who also directed Argo and the real Tony co-wrote the movie). He is a CIA ex-filtration specialist is brought in for consultation when the State Department can’t seem to find a safe way to get these six people out (another 52 hostages were held for about 444 days). The State Department wants to keep the fact that these six people have escaped because the Iran government is piecing together the log book of what every employee at the embassy looked like and they don’t want them to figure out they are short six hostages.
There are several possible ways to get them out, have them walk in disguises to letting them stay until the last moment and rush them out. All of these have some dire consequences (the death of these six workers). Tony is left with the decision of coming up with a better plan than that they are six American English teachers from local schools.
Tony and his supervisor Jack O’Donnell (played by Bryan Cranston) come up with a plan to have the six workers, plus Tony be movie scouts visiting to find locations for shooting. Each of the six is a part of the production and will have specific jobs when it comes to the movie. Tony gets in touch with John Chambers (played by John Goodman) who is a Hollywood make-up artist who had previously crafted disguises for the CIA. Chambers then introduces Tony too Lester Siegel (played by Alan Arkin). Lester is a famous hollywood director and he is rather reluctant at first to take on such a project but in the end agrees.
“If I’m doing a fake movie, it’s gonna be a fake hit.” – Lester Siegel
They search a script that would fit the best way for them to need a location site in Iran for shooting and the different areas around the city that would fit the movie. They soon come across the script for a little sci-fi film called Argo. Chambers agrees to come onto the project as a producer with of course Lester as the director. Tony is also an executive producer and they begin to fill the positions that the six hostages can fill. They also set up a fake production company and an office. They want everyone in Hollywood to believe the movie is real.
After setting everything up, they keep to get the name of the Argo movie into the press. This will cement it as real and that the movie will be produced. The group sets up a press conference where they read through the script (with some acting friends help who believe the movie is real) and answer questions. They even talk about where they are planning to shoot the movie.
Now they we have a fresh bases for the movie, it’s time to set up the plans for traveling to Iran. They decide it’s safer is everyone believes that the six are Canadian and that is why they are hiding where they are. The United States doesn’t take any credit for what is about to happen and the States Department is still having it’s doubts about the plan the CIA has come up with.
“This is the best bad idea we have, sir.” – Jack O’Donnell
In the end Tony does head to Iran (after stopping in Turkey to learn some information from an informant). He meets up with Ken Taylor at the Canadian embassy and they travel to his residents. It has been made clear that Ken and his wife will have to leave directly after the six hostages head out. The risk of being caught has increased to amazing levels. And the United States is pressing the need to keep everything a secret and if all goes well, the Canadian’s will take all of the credit for getting the hostages out.
Tony meets the six hostages: Bob Anders, Joe and Kathy Stafford, Mark and Cora Lijek, and Lee Schatz (a little reminder of names). They all want to escape with their lives but they want to make sure the plan is full proof and that they will escape without any problems. After explaining the plan, the Stafford’s are reluctant to go along with a plan that means they have to put themselves in public and near the line of fire. They want to stay safe. In the end however, all six agree to the plan. Each one is given a job on the movie.
Bob is the director, Cora is the writer, Kathy is the photographer imager (not sure of the exact title), Joe is another producer and Lee is given the position of set supervisor (this last one I’m not quite sure is correct but it’s something similar to this). All six are given new names and personalities. They have to memorize all of the information so that in the end they believe they are the people on each profile. Tony even quizzes them to make sure they know the information, just like the guards are the airport will do.
To jump things along, a servant in the house knows that the six aren’t who they claim to be and she even agrees to keep the secret. She warns them of new guards searching for the six and this jumps starts the move to get them out. However, Tony hears from his supervisor Jack that the plan is being called off. They believe it’s too risky and that it would cost more lives than it’s worth.
“We are responsible for these people.” – Tony Mendez
“What we are is required to follow orders.” – Jack O’Donnell
Tony is given strict orders to not move the six and to just wait it out until another team can come in and move them across the border. Tony seems to be willing to go along with it but in true fashion and a repeated line throughout the movie
“Argo fuck yourself!” – Tony Mendez
Tony takes the hostages through the city and to the airport. Now this is where things get tricky because the Iran government has already figured out they are missing six people and while it seems this is going to fail, they have to try. They six travel to the airport and must get through customs in order to get where the plane is going to be leaving. However the paperwork they need for a quick through isn’t there because they never entered the country the correct way, they have to play it up like the guards lost the paperwork. This is where your heart starts to really pound.
This wouldn’t be a Hollywood movie however is they didn’t make it through. First part finished and they make it through. The final spot is where the first army guards are waiting at the gate. They are checking passports and making sure that people are from where they say they are. Meanwhile back at the CIA, Jack has figured out that Tony has gone ahead with the plan and he needs to get the tickets back in order for them to get through. This is a quick panic of will it get done in time and in the end they have the tickets. Back to the gate, the guards don’t think the six are genuine and they pull them into the side office.
The guards question the six about the movie and why they are here and now leaving. They learn that Joe can speak Arabic and he helps with the translations in order to move things along. One of the guards calls the production company to check to make sure it’s real and after he hears that it is, all of them are cleared to get through the gate. They board the plane and it takes off just as the guards learn that they let the six hostages through.
And a sigh of relief can be let out because the six hostages escaped. To protect the hostages remaining in Tehran from retaliation, all U.S. involvement in the rescue is suppressed, giving full credit to the Canadian government and its ambassador. Mendez is awarded the Intelligence Star, but due to the mission’s classified nature, he would not be able to keep the medal until the details were publicized in 1997 (by President Clinton). All the hostages were freed on January 20, 1981. Argo ends with former President Carter’s speech about the crisis and the Canadian Caper.
All and all the movie is a bit true to it’s basic form roots. However, the closeness at the end of the movie I don’t personally believe was that close. It did make for a great ending though and that would be the point right? And I really love that in the credits, they show the actors portraying each of the six and what they really look like. I must say they pretty much nailed it!
My recommendation is that if you haven’t seen Argo you do see it. It’s a movie I wouldn’t pass up.
Also, upon doing my research necessary for this review, I came across an article written by one of the six original hostages. I want to share if for a little bit of extra information. Please click Here!