Today is Wednesday, June 28, 2017

'Argo' not entirely true, but still a thrilling film

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The humor plays off the silliness of Mendezs plan, which to the higher-ups in the CIA and U.S. State Department, seemed far less plausible than providing the six embassy personnel with bicycles and maps and telling them to bike to the Iranian border.

John Goodmanis outstanding as the late Hollywood make-up artist John Chambers and partnered withAlan Arkinas Lester Siegel, a character based on real individuals. Chambers, however, was critical to the operation as he helped sell the phony movie, titled, Argo to build a false layer of legitimacy.

Unfortunately, most of the six Americans in hiding are more or less extras in the film. We dont learn much about them other than a CIA briefing to tell their names and jobs. However, in a key scene,Scoot McNairy, playing Joe Stafford, stands out among all the others.

The beginning of the film starts with a documentary-style depiction of the storming of the embassy. Affleck cuts between actual footage of the event and his own reproductions with great skill, and the danger is palpable for the Americans inside.

The film is fun in the middle as Affleck, Goodman and Arkins characters go on tour promoting and selling the fake film. It lands Afflecks Mendez in Tehran under his cover identity and he must school the six escapees on memorizing their own covers quickly.

Mendez is determined to get the hostages out not only to redeem himself, but also to avoid the red tape and save their lives. While the CIA and government drag their feet, afraid of looking badly on the world stage, Mendez puts the escapees lives first.

It all builds to unbelievable climax with close calls and heart-pounding tension. Affleck should be commended for creating and maintaining such a nail-biting series of events.

Of course, Argo suffers from the typical Hollywood based on a true story formula that takes liberties to create dramatic tension. The close-calls and near-escapes are Hollywood to the core and good movie-making, but disappointing when watching a film about true events.

I give screenwriterChris Terriocredit for a really good script, which is based on an article written in 2007sWiredbyJoshuah Bearman. Official documents of the event were declassified in 1997 by President Bill Clinton.

The film doesnt spare blame on the United States for the events that took place in Iran, noting the CIA-supported coup in 1953 that deposed a democratically-elected nationalist government. That coup put ShahMohammad Reza Pahlaviin power and human rights violations that followed by his rule.

American and Iranian outrage is documented by actual footage from the time and dramatizations of real events. If anything, Argo looks and feels about as real as you can expect from Hollywood.

Like most films based on true stories, Id advise you to read Bearmans unbelievably good article after seeing the film. You can find it online easily.

But dont sacrifice Argo for the other; it is still a heart-pounding good time at the movies.

Argo is rated R with a runtime of 120 minutes and is now playing.

Editor Patrick Hall may be contacted at

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