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Movie Review
Rating :
Hero :
Ben Affleck
Heroine :
Other Cast :
Alan Arkin, Bryan Cranston
Director :
Ben Affleck
Music Director :
Alexandre Desplat
Producer :
Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck
Release Date :
The saying holds that those who don't learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. Ben Affleck's "Argo" demonstrates that truism on the largest possible cinematic scale. This thriller about the daring rescue of six Americans from Iran at the height of the hostage crisis takes place some 30 years ago, but might as well be ripped from the headlines today.

If you've been paying attention to current events, you'll recognize the roiling anti-American sentiments on display in the painstaking recreation of the 1979 storming of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, the profound tensions between the U.S. and Iranian governments and the overarching clash of civilizations that seems to define today's tense geopolitical environment. The outfits, the hairstyles and some of the players have changed, but the story remains the same.

To the rescue comes CIA “exfiltration” specialist Tony Mendez, played by Affleck. He cooks up a scheme to get the Americans out of Iran before they are found out by posing as the producer of a fake Canadian sci-fi movie called “Argo.” The six Americans will accompany him out of Iran posing as members of the Canadian film crew supposedly there to scout locations.

Although the film is essentially a nail-biter, it has a comic core. For example, this cockamamie scheme is predicated on the idea that the Iranian authorities agree their parched rural landscape looks “extraterrestrial.” (It does). The best parts of the film, which was written by Chris Terrio, aren’t set in Iran at all, but in Hollywood. To set up the operation, Mendez first goes there to recruit a schlock producer (Alan Arkin) and a monster makeup artist (John Goodman).

The film, alas, is also full of regrettable stereotypes. Every Iranian, save the Taylors’ noble housekeeper, is depicted as swarthy, shifty and dangerous. Affleck also can’t resist a quick shot of women in hijabs eating Kentucky Fried Chicken, for an “aha!” moment of hypocritical Iranians embracing American culture.

Should we expect anything else from Hollywood, which is in the business of distorting the truth to sell as escapism? Affleck has learned his lessons well. He transforms the Canadian Caper into an exciting American con job, with a Hollywood ending better than the real-life Hollywood ending, truth be damned. He’s mindful of that famous quote from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

Stick around for the end credits, wherein Carter gives the movie his seal of approval. Did he read the script or screen a rough cut? According to Affleck and screenwriter Chris Terrio, this improbable escape came off despite the White House’s wishy-washy reaction.
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