Americans like redoing wars in movies – and they do not avoid the lost wars. The hostage crisis in 1979 which cost president Carter a second presidential mandate was not exactly a war, but a conflict generated by the departing paths of the Iran in revolution after the overthrow of the Shah and on its way to become an Islamic Republic and the United States government which supported for many decades the old regime. One rescue mission went terribly wrong, but this is not the one shown in Argo but the lesser known and successful one in which six employees who escaped the embassy when events started and were hidden in the house of the Canadian ambassador were taken out of Iran, under the false identities of Canadians working for a Hollywood movie. As with the Rambo series for example, the story is first of all a pretext for action entertainment, and a way of making audiences feel better about a problematic episode in the American history. Same as with Rambo, success with audiences and in this case also with critics (which I am a little surprised) was achieved, but this does not make in my opinion for good cinema, and of course does not really change history.




Does it matter that the film is inspired by a true story? That’s an interesting question, and I would say that the answer is to a large extent No. It is not really the factual truth that matters when you watch a fiction movie, but the artistic news. Reality sometimes exceeds imagination, but art is first of all about imagination, and not necessarily about the imagination of the makers but of the one of the receivers, the viewers in the case of movies. The analysis on the Internet show discrepancies between the real events and the story on screen – this is not what bothers me but the result. The final chase for example between the Iranian police cars and the commercial airplane taking off would fit fine a James Bond or Mission: Impossible film, but not one labeled a true story. There was enough material in the story for a much deeper psychological processing, both of the CIA and other people involved in the plot, and of the American confined in the Canadian ambassador’s house and waiting for the rescue. Ben Affleck and the other authors of the film went for the broader audiences using the action film tools and inflating the role of the Hollywood producers and of the Americans in general in the whole story. It was a fair and legitimate choice which probably improved the rating, but did not in my opinion make the film better.


(video source WarnerBros. Pictures)


I do not like Ben Affleck as an actor. He inspires me dullness in most of the roles he takes, simply made me lose interest in more than a few characters I saw him acting. This is the case here as well. I am not inspired by his Tony Mendez, I cannot distinguish his hero from many other similar action movies heroes, I never got his motivation for making the tough decision of going rogue in order to save lives and accomplish his mission, his divorcee and remote father background is as banal as it can be in the script and Ben Affleck the actor does not pour any life in it. Actually as a director and script author he may be more interesting, his director hand is sure and witty, and as an action movie director he is above average. His image of the 70s is precisely executed, with the help of costumes and sets artists and despite use of stereotypes (like excessive smoking). As with many other of his films Argo promises more than it delivers.