“Argo” A Movie Review by Gary S. Smolker
“Argo” A Movie Review by Gary S. Smolker
I attended the Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto, Canada from September 6 through September 15, 2012.
This is the most feel good movie I saw at the Toronto International Film Festival.
It is an edge-of-your seat thriller.
It is also a true story, a wholly incredible and unbelievable true story about how six Americans working for the State Department escaped to the Canadian Embassy, but were trapped in Tehran during the Iran Hostage Crisis, and were smuggled out of Tehran by a C.I.A. Agent (Tony Mendez, played by Ben Affleck).
The C. I. A. Agent smuggled them out of Tehran in broad day light on a Swiss Air Jet Aircraft flying out of Tehran.
This C. I. A. Agent refused to follow direct orders from the Director of the C.I.A. and the President of the United States to abandon and leave those six Americans trapped in Tehran.
You will be on the edge of your seat for the entire movie, especially while the C. I. A. Agent and the six other Americans are driving from the Canadian Ambassador’s house to the airport, as they get through passport control, as they board the plane and as members of the Iranian Military try to catch up with them to stop the plane once they have boarded the Swiss Air jet.
Alan Arkin and John Goodman should be nominated for (and I predict they will vie to to the finish line to win) Academy Awards for their superb acting in this movie. Alan Arkin plays veteran Hollywood movie producer Lester Siegel. John Goodman plays the part of a Hollywood make-up artist extraordinaire.
The script for this ridiculous (but true) story was well and tightly written by Chris Terrio.
Mr. Terrio infuses intense life into each of the main characters.
Simultaneously, his script is testimony to his comic inventiveness.
The directing of the film, by Ben Affleck, was masterful. The tension in the film never lets up.
Ben Affleck is also one of the producers of this film and plays the main character (Tony Mendez) in this film.
This film will win public acclaim and is going to be a big money making film.
However, Argo bravely sends the message that the Shah of Iran was a mean despot, who came to power in a military coup orchestrated by the C. I. A. in which the C. I. A. orchestrated the overthrow of Iran’s democratically elected President of Iran.
The introductory segment of this film (which takes place before Iranian students storm the American Embassy) makes it very clear that the Shah was legitimately and violently hated by his people.
The introductory segment tells us that, before he was overthrown, the Shah was having his lunch flown in from Paris while his countrymen were starving.
If I remember correctly, in the introductory segment of this film we are also told his wife was bathing in milk baths and her husband (the Shah) was having people who disagreed with him tortured by his secret police.
Be that as it may, our focus is quickly turned to the storming of the American Embassy, the escape of the six Americans to the Canadian Ambassador’s home (by the way other governments refused to give refuge to the six Americans who escaped from the American Embassy, discussions in the United States about how to extract those six Americans from Tehran, and then implementation of that plan and the President of the United States deciding not to help those Americans escape from Iran and Tony Mendez successfully helping those six Americans escape.
From the moment the American Embassy is stormed Argo keeps its audience on the edge of its seat until the movie ends.
Argo is a true story.
Argo is the previously classified true story of a man working for the CIA (exfiltration specialist Tony Mendez) who refused to follow orders and working with the cooperation of the Canadian ambassador in Tehran saved the lives of those six Americans during the Iran hostage crisis.
For having the good sense to not follow orders and the intelligence to understand to a greater degree than the President of the United States (Jimmy Carter) and to a greater degree than the Director of the C. I. A. what the decision to smuggle the Americans trapped in Tehran out of Iran was all about, after the fact, Mendez was awarded the highest medal awarded by the C. I. A. for Mendez’s daring exploit.
The story told in this Argo reminded me of the following story David Packard (co-founder of Hewlett-Packer) tells/told of giving an award to an employee who had defied him.
Years ago at a Hewlett-Packard lab, they told a young engineer to give up work on a display monitor he was developing.
In response, he went on “vacation”, touring California and dropping in on potential customers to show them the monitor and to gauge their interest.
The customers loved it, he continued working on it, and then he somehow persuaded his manager to put it into production.
The company sold more than seventeen thousand though of his monitors and reaped a sales volume of thirty-five million dollars.
Later, at a meeting of Hewlett-Packard engineers, Packard gave the young man a medal “for extraordinary contempt and defiance beyond the normal call of engineering duty.”
Similarly, Tony Mendez was awarded a message for defying the direct order of the President of the United States (Jimmy Carter) and defying the direct order of the Director of the C. I. A.A
The movie doesn’t end when the six Americans are home safe in America, and while the world still didn’t know that the C. I. A. was involved in rescuing them.
The movie shows us that Tony Mendez (masterfully played by Ben Affleck) was told by his boss that the C. I. A. is going to have an award ceremony [on such and such a date] at which he (Mendez) will be given the highest award (medal) the C. I. A. awards to its employees for successfully rescuing those six Americans.
In the movie, at that moment, Mendez (a divorced man) asks his boss to postpone the ceremony for a week so that Mendez’s young son can attend the ceremony.
Mendez’s boss replies: “We can’t postpone the ceremony or permit your son to attend the ceremony because the Award Ceremony will be a secret ceremony and the fact that you were awarded this award will be a secret.
It is a secret award. You can’t keep the medal the C. I. A. is going to give you. Right after the C. I. A. gives you the medal we (the C. I. A.) will take it back.
When Mendez’s boss sees Mendez frowning, Mendez’s boss tells Mendez: “If you wanted applause you should have joined the circus, not the C. I. A.”
Everyone is going to love this movie because the protagonists themselves are forced by circumstances to play a part in a serious dramatic life and death moment, which leads to rich comedy.
The wonderful thing about this movie (which is a true story) is that all the ridiculous and unbelievable things that happen in this movie actually happened.
Production, US Distributor and International Sales Agent: Warner Brothers Pictures
By the way, I repeat: the tension never lets up in this movie.
The Iran Hostage Crisis began on November 4, 1979 when a group of Iranian militants stormed and took control of the U. S. embassy in Tehran and held 52 embassy personnel hostages.
This movie tells the audience that the Iranian militants who stormed the American Embassy were rightfully outraged at the conduct of the U.S./C.I.A. for having orchestrated the overthrow of their democratically elected President in a military coup by an Army officer who then became the Shaw of Iran.
———————————————————–Gary Smolker, Publisher Gary S. Smolker Idea Exchange Blog http://www.garysmolker.wordpress.com