MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Photo By Warner Brothers Pictures
Directed by Ben Affleck. Starring Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston.
On November 4, 1979 a mob of protestors, incensed about our support of the Shah, seized the U.S. Embassy in Iran. 52 Americans were taken and held hostage. This became the stuff of everyday news for the 444 days in which the hostages were kept captive (The ABC show Nightline was created originally just to report daily coverage of the crisis). But there is an interesting sidebar story that most of us don’t remember.
Argo tells that story. Six Americans escaped from their captors and eventually found sanctuary in the Canadian ambassador’s house. They were now in a bit of a bind; if the Iranians found out about them, there could be another international situation with Canada. And if they were recognized on the street, they could possibly lose their lives. The C.I.A. came up with a plan that was so crazy that it just might work. They would get a group to pose as Canadian filmmakers scouting Iran for locations to film a science fiction movie. Star Wars had been a great hit and Hollywood was looking to repeat the success. To make this look as authentic as possible, they would recruit real Hollywood talent (including a producer (Alan Arkin) and an Academy Award winning makeup artist (John Goodman)) and set up the ruse in great detail, including drawing storyboards for all of the scenes and casting parts. Of course, if they made it into the ambassador’s house, they would then have to figure out a plan of escape.
Argo works as pure entertainment. It is suspenseful and involving, and the Hollywood scenes are fun, with Arkin and Goodman old pros at portraying their stereotypical characters. Director-actor Ben Affleck does a nice job as Tony Mendez, the leader of the rescue squad and Bryan Cranston is superb as the levelheaded C.I.A. boss who keeps the project on track stateside. It is well edited and moves quickly.
These rescuers are “wise as serpents and harmless as doves”, using peaceful means instead of cruise missiles to obtain results. Is lying justifiable in situations like this? Argo contrasts the deceitfulness of this plan with the ways in which filmmakers also plays fast and loose to get projects underway.
I had a few problems with the film. While it goes to great lengths to explain the hostage crisis sympathetically (Even opening with a storyboard/comic book prelude to set the stage), the Iranians are often portrayed as loud, shouting, bearded men – the Unknown Other. Canada is given short shrift in their role in this plan (which was considerable). And the last half-hour creates most of its suspense by setting up preposterous scenarios that I thought just could not have possibly happened that way (and they didn’t).
This is a clever, fast-moving and entertaining film. If you excised the bad language, it could be recommended to just about anyone. And it’s great to see a true-life story in which the Central Intelligence Agency shows just how intelligent it can be when cooler heads prevail.
Four halos: A hugely entertaining and suspenseful film that combines the thriller and comedy genres successfully, while also giving us something to think about.
Two pitchforks: Violent mob activity; a lot of swearing throughout the film, enough to give it an R rating.
Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
COMMENTS! Do you have comments about this movie or movie review?
E-mail comments. (Comments will be posted to our web site.)
The East Ohio Conference Office:
located in North Canton, OH.
near the Akron-Canton airport.
8800 Cleveland Ave. NW ·
North Canton, OH 44720
Toll Free: 800-831-3972
Office Hours: Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
©2016 EAST OHIO CONFERENCE. All Rights Reserved.