Monday, October 15, 2012

Movie Critique: Argo

If you're more than 40 years old, you probably remember the historic events that are the basis of the movie ARGO.

In 1979, during the Iranian Revolution, Islamic militants take over the U.S. embassy in Tehran in retaliation for the country's support of the recently deposed Shah.

While most of the over 60 embassy staff members are taken as hostages, six manage to flee the embassy and hide in the home of Canadian ambassador.

The State Department begins to explore options for "exfiltrating" the hiding escapees while thier situation is kept secret

CIA specialist Tony Mendez comes up with an idea while watching the science-fiction movie Battle for the Planet of the Apes on TV with his son: create a cover story that the escapees are Canadian filmmakers, scouting "exotic" locations in Iran for a similar film.

An elaborate ruse is concocted as the situation in Tehran is getting more strained. The hostage crisis is dragging into months, and the escapees are growing frantic confined to the ambassador's residence. Shredded documentation from the US embassy is being reassembled, providing the revolutionaries with evidence that there are embassy personal unaccounted for, and their identities.

Through some very tense moments, Mendez succeeds in extracting the escapees from Iran.

To protect the hostages remaining in Tehran from further retaliation, all US involvement in the caper is suppressed, giving credit to the Canadian government and its ambassador.

Mendez is awarded the Intelligence Star, but is unable to keep the medal itself because of the classified nature of the work he did to earn it.

At the end of the movie, we find out that the medal was returned to him when the operation was declassified in 1997, and that, after 444 days, all the remaining hostages were freed on January 20, 1981.

I found this movie fascinating because I recall the crisis quite well. These events and how then President Jimmy Carter handled it probably cost Carter the election.

It's also interesting to note the hostages were released on January 20, 1981 -- just moments before incoming President Reagan was inaugurated into office.  Reagan publicly stated his willingness to using military action to free the hostages.

Screened on Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012 at Bay City 6, Bay City, MI

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