Argo is a 2012 American political thriller film based on the events of the 1979–81 Iran hostage crisis, which was released in theatres around the country. The story revolves around several U.S. embassy employees who managed to flee the hostage takers and seek safety with Canadian officials, eventually escaping the country while posing as members of a Canadian film crew. In addition to critical acclaim, the film, which intercut archive footage with tense interior shots and scenes of a seething Iran, received an Academy Award nomination for best picture.
The film opens with a brief explanation of the events leading up to the toppling of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi and the subsequent Iranian Revolution, before cutting to the scene of the United States embassy in Tehran, which is encircled by militant demonstrators. Staff members are hastily shredding and burning documents on the inside.
The diplomat Bob Anders (played by Tate Donovan) gathers the other employees of the Office of Visas, which is the only building in the compound with an exit to the street. They are Mark Lijek (Christopher Denham) and his wife Cora (Clea DuVall), Joe Stafford (Scoot McNairy) and his wife Kathy (Kerry Bishé), and Lee Schatz (Rory Cochrane), and they slip out to the street However, they are refused entry into the British embassy, but the Canadian ambassador, Ken Taylor (Victor Garber), accepts them as guests.
A briefing on the issue is given to Hamilton Jordan (Kyle Chandler), the president’s chief of staff, who is based in Washington, DC. The State Department is attempting to find a method to extricate the Americans. Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck), an expert in inventing false identities in support of espionage operations, is summoned by Jack O’Donnell (Bryan Cranston) of the Central Intelligence Agency.
When it comes to removing the six houseguests of the Canadian ambassador, Mendez rejects every option that is put out to him. However, he does come up with the notion of disguising them as a Canadian film crew that is in Iran for the purpose of researching film locations. The CIA has recommended that Mendez and O’Donnell contact John Chambers (John Goodman), a Hollywood makeup artist who has previously worked with them. Chambers enlists the help of producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin), who discovers and options a script for a science-fiction film called Argo and distributes press releases about the upcoming film. Traveling to the Middle East in disguise as a film producer, Mendez meets with the six Americans to outline the plan and provide them with phoney IDs as Canadian filmmakers.
However, despite their reservations and suspicions, the Americans follow the plan, which includes participating in a walking tour of the city conducted by an Iranian cultural official. Mendez and the Americans successfully navigate through a series of problems that threatened to disrupt their escape, eventually boarding a Swissair passenger flight and flying to safety.
A 2007 article in Wired magazine written by Joshuah Bearman titled “The Great Escape: How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Film to Rescue Americans from Tehran” as well as Tony Mendez’s memoir, The Master of Disguise, served as inspiration for the film Argo (1999).
While Affleck, who also directed the film, was commended for his ability to evoke tension and suspense, as well as for making the film appear as if it had been shot in the late 1970s, it was also noted that the film made some significant changes to the facts of the situation in the real world.
The Canadian government’s significant assistance to the safe extraction of the six Americans, in particular, generated criticism, with some claiming that Argo had understated these contributions. In addition, the film depicted a number of near-discoveries made by the group that did not actually occur.
He received a Golden Globe Award and a BAFTA Award for his direction of the film, among other honours. In 1981, a television movie called Escape from Iran: The Canadian Caper dramatised the events of the film, which were also detailed in a book by historian Robert Wright titled Our Man in Tehran. The events of the film were also dramatised in a 1981 television movie called Escape from Iran: The Canadian Caper (2010).
- Ben Affleck (Tony Mendez)
- Bryan Cranston (Jack O’Donnell)
- John Goodman (John Chambers)
- Alan Arkin (Lester Siegel)
- Victor Garber (Ken Taylor)
- Tate Donovan (Bob Anders)
- Christopher Denham (Mark Lijek)
- Clea DuVall (Cora Lijek)
- Scoot McNairy (Joe Stafford)
- Kerry Bishé (Kathy Stafford)
- Rory Cochrane (Lee Schatz)
- Kyle Chandler (Hamilton Jordan)
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