starring Ben Affleck, John Goodman, Alan Arkin, Bryn Cranston, Victor Garber, Tate Donovan, Clea DuVall, Scott McNairy, Rory Cochrane, Christopher Denham, Kerry Bishé, Kyle Chandler, Chris Messina and bob Gunton
screenplay by Chris Terrio
directed by Ben Affleck
Argo is based on written memoirs of six American refugees from the US. Embassy under siege in Teheran in November, 1979 revolutionary Iran. The six famously found shelter in the Canadian Ambassador’s residence in Teheran and were later secreted out of the country under the guise of being a Canadian film crew, with fake Canadian identities. I was in high school at the time and I remember all of these events fairly well, so the note at the beginning of the film that it is “Based on true events” is unnecessary for me. However, most of today’s movie audience is probably too young and needs the prompt. Television news images of‘student’ revolutionaries at mass rallies in Teheran, and major characters like President Jimmy Carter, Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor, American Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, and the Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini are all familiar to me.
I think the Iranians were rightly incensed with the America-installed Iranian king, Shah Pahlavi. He truly was a heinous piece of shit and his overthrow was appropriate, just like that of Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines several years later. After the Shah’s defection, though, things got really hairy over there as appropriate revolution deteriorated into trial vendetta.
You can teach a rhesus monkey to be a director in a day.
The U.S. President at the time, of course, was Democrat Jimmy Carter. Dozens of embassy workers were held hostage for more than a year and not released until January 1981, after Republican Ronald Reagan had been inaugurated as the new President. The duration of the crisis was commonly seen as a deliberate humiliation of Carter by the Iranians, to highlight American impotence. President Carter’s Secretary of State was Cyrus Vance, played by Bob Gunton (The Shawshank Redemption, 1994). Canada at the time was governed by the short-lived Conservative government of Joe Clark, whose Minister of External Affairs was the incendiary Kingstonian Flora MacDonald. What a character she was. What a tough broad. Sort of like a toned down Canadian version of Margaret Thatcher.
The way the escape was described in the press at the time sounded like a resounding Canadian success. However the reality is that it was a CIA operation and the six - followed by the Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor and his wife - escaped by the skin of their teeth. From the very start the operation had a high chance of failure. It’s not easy for Westerners to walk into a country in the midst of revolution where the natives hate Westerners with everything they’ve got. And it’s not easy to convincingly float a fake movie. Who’d a thought?
“Argo”was the title of the fake movie. The running joke in the film is, “What does ‘Argo’ mean?”
It means “Argo fuck yourself.”
The more I see of John Goodman the more I like him.