In late 1979, revolution was sweeping Iran. Of course, this is much simplified but work with me. The overthrown leader of Iran, the Shah, found exile in the United States. Giving him shelter was a move that greatly upset the Iranian people. It was that anger that led to the storming of the US embassy in Tehran in 1979. 52 Americans that were in the embassy were held hostage. Again, this is greatly simplified. But it’s where the 2012 film Argo, featuring and directed by Ben Affleck, picks up.
During that storming at the embassy, six US citizens who worked there were able to escape and, secretly, find shelter in the Canadian embassy. Argo is based on the true story of how those six workers were sneaked out of Iran and back to the US. The plan: create a fake film production company, buy a script, and then publicly state the film is going to be filmed in Iran. Then, using the film as a cover, fly the six out by having them pose as film crew.
But there are issues you can nitpick with Argo. Films that are “based on true stories” always have the emphasis placed on based on. Little things, like Affleck looking absolutely nothing like the real person he’s portraying or the director, portrayed by Alan Arkin, who is enlisted into the production company cover to offer legitimacy didn’t actually exist but was a composite of several people. But there are other, larger parts of the storyline that were bent, mostly for suspense, I suspect.
Affleck does, however, during the closing credits, come full circle and include actual artifacts from the time, including audio of then-president Jimmy Carter. Of particular note were photos from Iran 1979 side by side with stills from the film, showing Affleck’s eye for detail in reenacting certain aspects of the film.
While Argo starts off a little slow, it picks up about halfway through and keeps a rather quick pace. Affleck, as both lead and director, does a good job. His acting, and the acting of everyone in the film, is definitely up to par and believable. John Goodman offers, as to be expected, some great comic relief with Arkin. If you aren’t familiar with the real history, it’s easy to enjoy and get sucked in to the storyline. But after you read the history and the historical context, it’s kind of a bummer.