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Cast: Ben Affleck, Alan Arkin, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, Scoot McNairy
Director: Ben Affleck
Indian Express Rating:****1/2
"HISTORY starts as farce, ends as tragedy," says director Lester Siegel (Arkin) in the film Argo. Only to be immediately corrected by prosthetics expert John Chambers (Goodman): "It's actually the other way around." Who said that, Siegel asks. "Marx," replies Chambers. "Really, Groucho said that?" Siegel quips. The two of course are fooling around. Argo certainly isn't.
For, this accomplished Ben Affleck-directed film sees both the tragedy and farce of the 444-day-long Iranian hijack crisis, in which every side claimed the moral high ground when neither could claim it, in which a cynical director and prosthetics expert ended up playing heroic roles, and in which the only successful rescue operation rested eventually on the flimsy, derided, ridiculed back of Hollywood.
The film is based on a little known chapter of one of the worst diplomatic crises of all time, which would come to determine the course Middle-East politics would take. On November 4, 1979, a group of students angry at the American support for the Shah of Iran ran over the US Embassy in Tehran and took it over, holding the 50-plus staff inside hostage. The US earlier hoped for a quick resolution but that quickly evaporated as Ayatollah Khomeini extended his support to the students.
Six of the staff escaped that day and took shelter at the residence of the Canadian Ambassador to Iran, Ken Taylor (Victor Garber). Argo is the story of their escape, which remained untold till, in 1997, President Clinton declassified the file. The film is inspired from an article on it that appeared in Wired.
As stories go, it is a tale waiting to be told. Called upon to help "exfiltrate" the six, who are at threat of being discovered and executed by the Iranian revolutionary guards who are going door to door in Tehran looking for Americans, CIA agent Tony Lopez (Affleck) rejects the idea of them posing as teachers or farming experts – implausible given the volatile situation in the country.
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