Last year we were treated to two different movies telling stories about pivotal points in American history. Zero Dark Thirty and Argo. I know I’m 6 months behind on this one, but I was fortunate enough to see Argo last weekend. Typically, I don’t care for Ben Affleck in any capacity (I have not seen The Town), but in this I really enjoyed his performance and direction.
The movie starts in 1979, using storyboards and file footage from the time to explain the current civil unrest in Iran. The Shah was overthrown and given asylum in the U.S. while the Ayatollah, a revolutionary leader was put into power. People gathered outside the Iranian U.S. Embassy, demanding the return of the Shah. Eventually they stormed the building taking 50 Americans hostage. Six managed to escape, finding refuge in the house of the Canadian ambassador. They hid there for over 70 days. It became clear to the C.I.A. that the Iranians were piecing together damaged files from the embassy, and knew that people were missing. If found, they would be publicly executed.
C.I.A. agent Tony Mendez constructed an ingenious plan to get them out of the country. Using a Hollywood contact, makeup artist John Chambers, they created the pretense that a sci-fi movie was to be filmed by a Canadian film company. They commissioned a script (originally Lords of Light), storyboards, created a fake production company (complete with business cards, Chambers’ wife as a receptionist, and an office), employed a cast, took out ads in Entertainment Weekly, and had a film party. All of this was a ruse to lend credence to their cover story. Tony eventually goes to Iran, sets up the crew’s fake credentials, and gets them out of the country. All seven made it home safely.
Every scene in Iran was tense, expertly showing the fear that everyone experienced on a constant basis. My only problem with the movie (which is minor really), is the somewhat fake drama at the end. While they were on their way to the airport, everything about their cover and extraction fell apart. The tickets weren’t booked, the shredded documents were finally reassembled showing their photos, the production company was shut down, etc., etc. Every step of the way, in perfect timing, everything came together and fell apart. Their tickets were booked while Ben Affleck was asking the attendant to check her computer for them again. John Chambers made it to the phone just as the Iranian soldier, calling to confirm it’s existence, was about to hang up. This goes on and on. It was a little cliche to me, but it helped heightened the drama.
I really enjoyed the credits, showing images of the actual people juxtaposed against their movie counterparts. With the exception of Ben Affleck/Tony Mendez, the looks were spot on. I didn’t even recognize Clea Duvall as Cora Lijek.
An interesting fact about the movie. The real life storyboards were drawn by none other than Jack Kirby (creator of Captain America, Thor, Avengers, Fantastic Four, the list really does go on). He was the living in L.A. at the time and was commissioned to do conceptual art for the movie Lords of Light. In Argo, he’s credited as the artist. It’s likely due to the nature of the project, he didn’t know anything about their real purpose, and thought this was just another movie. In a stranger twist, prolific comic book artist, Image Comics creator, and current DC Publisher Jim Lee owns one of these original pieces of art. In his tweet he said he purchased it because of the artist, having no idea of it’s historical value.
If you have the slightest interest in the subject matter, I highly recommend Argo. Entertaining throughout.
Which did you enjoy more, Argo or Zero Dark Thirty (Argo for me)? Was this Ben Affleck’s best? Comment or tweet! If you enjoyed what you read, please share.
“Argo f**k yourself.”