Matt Adcock’s film review: Argo

‘The movie was fake. The mission was real.’

Welcome back to 1979, things are a tad tense in Iran where the American embassy is being stormed by enraged supporters of the Ayatollah Khomeini.

Most of the unlucky American staff are taken hostage, but six plucky souls manage to escape and find shelter in the official residence of the Canadian ambassador.

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But with the hostile crowd hunting for them and diplomatic relations strained beyond breaking point, a daring rescue mission must be devised by the CIA.

With odds described as being ‘worse than many suicide missions we ran in the war’, exfiltration expert Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck, who also directs) comes up with a crazy plan – to create a phony Canadian sci-fi film which would require some locations shots in Iran.

The plan would see Mendez fly into Iran, meet up with the target exiled Americans and then fly out with them pretending to be his Canadian film crew.

To help the plan have any chance of looking ‘real’, some Hollywood bigwigs are drafted in.

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And so one of the world’s most exciting escapes is attempted – and it’s all true!

I’m sure that Argo plays a little fast and loose with the facts of the situation but there is no denying that the tale is well staged and brilliantly acted and directed by Affleck.

It’s probably not going to win many friends in the Muslim world as it clearly depicts the CIA and Yanks as the good guys and the Iranian people as a whole as mostly fanatical Muslims, baying for Yankee blood.

The cast are superb throughout, Alan Arkin and John Goodman are great comedy value as the Hollywood fake film team and the period detail feels spot on – the moustaches are especially impressive.

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Where Argo really shines though, is in the sheer edge-of-the-seat tension that it ramps up, this is a high quality white-knuckle thrill ride.

You don’t need to have been around during the 1970s and 1980s to appreciate Argo but for those who were too young to fully understand what was going on, this is an eye-opening glimpse of a powder keg international situation.

As anti-Iranian sentiment in the United States is worryingly high at the moment – there is potentially the possibility that another ‘Argo’ style plan is happening even as we speak.

Are those Disney/Star Wars announcements actually the start of a massive CIA cover operation?