The story behind the movie “Argo,” directed by Ben Affleck, is so brilliantly crafted that it’s hard to believe it’s based on true events that occurred during Iran’s Islamic Revolution.
When a mob of angry, distressed Iranians overtook the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979, over 50 American employees were taken as hostage. Six diplomats managed to escape and find refuge in the home of the Canadian ambassador, risking the security of both countries and the lives of everyone involved.
The CIA struggled to come up with a plausible plan for exfiltrating the diplomats, but it was hard to create one that was believable enough to get past the Iranian government.
CIA specialist Tony Mendez, played by Affleck, was the one to come up with the masterful operation that was just bizarre enough to have a chance.
Mendez’s idea was to travel to Tehran and pose as a movie producer scouting for locations to shoot a science fiction film that’s described as a “$20 million ‘Star Wars’ knockoff.” Once there, he’ll meet up with his “film crew,” or the six diplomats, who will each be given new constructed identities so airtight they’ll be able to pass through Iranian security and fly back home.
It sounds like an insane and far-fetched plan that would have no chance of playing out the right way. It’s easy to think that this is the type of scheme that would only work out in a Disney movie.
That is, until you remember that this is no fairytale. “Argo” tells the story of a true crisis and the heroes that resolved it.
“The whole country is watching you, they just don’t know it,” Jack O’Donnell, Mendez’s supervisor, played by “Breaking Bad” star Bryan Cranston, tells him once the plan is approved and ready for action.
This energetic sense of urgency is found throughout the entire film, with a few short bursts of the type of dark humor that breaks the tension just enough to make you feel guilty for laughing.
“Argo” never claims to be a documentary account of what later came to be known as the “Canadian Caper,” and, at times, scenes were overdramatized and exaggerated in ways that were too hard to buy. Yet, the film captures a story of heroic masterminds so full of heart-stopping action and gut-wrenching anxiety that it’s difficult to look away from the screen even for a second.
"Argo" is sure to earn a handful of Oscar nominations. Most notably, its thrilling take on this historical event makes it a strong candidate for Best Adapted Screenplay. Affleck could also receive a nomination for Best Director, and it wouldn't be surprising to see this film be nominated for Best Picture.