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Ar-Go-Watch It!

(The Verge) – Months after the release of the critically-acclaimed film, and weeks after its re-release following its Oscar nomination, I finally got to witness the Iran Hostage Crisis firsthand, well through a Hollywood film lens that is…
Ben Affleck’s Argo was not only an intriguing, thorough and brilliantly compiled film, but it was my favorite 2012 production (beating the ranks of The Dark Knight Rises, Silver Linings Playbook and Lincoln). Its suspense kept me on the edge of my seat, while also displaying a dramatic character and plot progression. The characters were believable, the cast had notable credentials and its hint of comedy allowed viewers to take a second to put forth a concealed smirk or quick giggle. The latter is mostly stemming from the brilliant performance (as usual) by Academy Award winner Alan Arkin. As an upper echelon Hollywood film figure, Arkin’s character, Lester Siegel provided the audience with sarcastic laughs and a bit of dry humor that the film needed.
Like his performances in Thin Ice and Little Miss Sunshine, Arkin’s brilliance shined bright again in Affleck’s third notable film behind the camera. He gave it the necessary push the film needed to make it an Oscar contender…But with all this talk about the film’s elite status at Hollywood’s ‘Senior Prom’ of sorts, the Oscars, what exactly is it about?
Based on a true story, producers Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck and George Clooney relay the Iran Hostage Crisis from 1979-1981

Arkin was partially responsible for providing the film with its needed surge towards stardom and elite classification. Image taken from: aceshowbiz.com

on the silver screen. The film opens up with a powerful scene curtailing the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Iran. This comes after a nation fresh off of a revolution is enraged with Americans for “supporting” their ousted former leader, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi as he seeks asylum in America. Shown shaking hands with then-President Jimmy Carter, Iranians refused to remain peaceful with the United States. These tensions were heightened as revolutionary leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, supported the intense rejection of the western world in the new Islamic Republic. The mostly Shiite nation could not understand why Americans would not turn over their former ‘dictator,’ who was to be hung in his former country.
The former Persian Empire, Iran was the source of much of the worlds tensions in the late ’70s, and when the conflict reached its climax, protesters breached the walls of the U.S. Embassy and broke in, taking 52 hostages (which they held for 444 days). Six American diplomats managed to escape out the back door, fleeing onto the streets of foreign Iran. Shunned by other embassies, they took refuge in the house of Canadian Ambassador, Ken Taylor, played by Victor Garber (Titanic, Alias).
Hearing the news of these escaped and frightened Embassy workers, the CIA was quick to act, devising different plans to retrieve them before Iran could piece together that there in fact were Americans who escaped. Producer Ben Affleck also takes a leading role in the film, as CIA operative Tony Mendez. In a recent separation with his wife and seemingly intense depression upon being split with his 10 year old son, Mendez compiles a masterful plan that involved some hefty risk. Instead of approving plans to give the Americans bicycles to trek to Turkey, or having them pose as English teachers in Tehran, Mendez suggests that they pretend to be a unified Canadian film crew on location in Iran to scope out different landmarks to film.
Mendez’s masterful plan provided for a nervy, action-packed cinema experience. Image taken from: i2.cdn.turner.com

Though the CIA was doubtful, Mendez convinced them to give in, calling the plan the best option of entirely bad ideas. Affleck’s seventies haircut and intense nature in the film allowed it to remain exciting during these parts, as usually these political dramas fade out during these buildups. But in this case, the stakes were so high and the CIA protocol talks during the hectic confusion were just so interesting to any political or history junkie!
Aided by an absurdly unique plan, the CIA got behind Mendez’s film idea and it was solidified by two Hollywood figures, John Chambers (John Goodman; The Big Lebowski, Roseanne), who was a Oscar winning costume designer and Lester Siegel, (Arkin) also an Oscar winner, who vouched to make the film a legitimate production. With their backing, and the resulting proof written about them in the press, the film was ‘in the works.’ Chambers and Siegel also pretended to be backing Mendez on his out-of-country film shoot, as Sixth Ave. Film Productions. They even had a script reading, as if the film was really to be produced in Iran in March of 1980. The film’s most recognizable one-liner even came from this Hollywood bloc, as a film scene figure or reporter asks Siegel what “Argo” meant; Siegel responds with “I don’t know…Ar-go-f*%k-yourself!”
Going on the risky endeavor, Mendez uses the alias “Kevin Harkins,” film producer, and flies into ‘enemy territory.’ Holding the documents that would provide the hostages their cover, Mendez wonders into the city, walks right into the Canadian ambassador’s house and conveys his plan. Hesitant at first, one of the hostages refuses to take part. Eventually, they all give in, agreeing to do a tour of the city through the country’s Ministry of Culture and leave through the main airport the next day. If caught they’d surely be publicly executed as American spies, and as child laborers piece together shredded bits of the images of those six that escaped, the movie becomes a race against time as Revolutionary Guard members catch on and pursue Affleck and his ‘film’ gang.
Though you may know how it plays out through your American History II course, it’s still worth going to see, as tensions flare
The airport scene, as pictured here, is overwhelmingly gripping, and showed Affleck’s flare for the dramatic in Hollywood. Image taken from: slate.com

so much, that I don’t think I’ve ever been so nervous in a movie before! One asset to the group was the one diplomat who spoke Farsi, and luckily saves the day at one point! The closing minutes show a brilliantly faceted car & plane chase, which in my opinion displayed the brilliance of Affleck, who showed similar flare in Goodwill Hunting and The Town.
It’s one of the year’s best, and to not see it is a crime! Affleck has already won a Golden Globe award for Best Director, and his film has won one for Best Picture for a Drama. Nominated for seven Academy Awards, the nervy film is easily one of the year’s best and in an elite category of Hollywood works. Rumor has it that the Iranians are also quite irked by the film, denouncing it and planning to produce their own depiction of the events…one where the detainees are peacefully handed over to American officials.

Ben Affleck, John Goodman, Alan Arkin, Victor Garber, Bryan Cranston