Friday, October 26, 2012

Friday afternoon trailer: Argo

Linking nicely with current affairs theme of the third and final Presidential Debate before this year's election, the one about US foreign policy, here comes a film about a pivotal event from 1979 which, according to some, still reverberates in the tensioned relationship between the West and the Middle East. And believe it or not, cinema played a major part in the unravelling of this specific event.

Argo is directed by Ben Affleck and is based on the true story of how six American diplomats were rescued by the C.I.A. during the Iran hostage crisis in 1979 by pretending to be Canadian film-makers, scouting for a location in Iran, in preparation for what was to be a major Hollywood production adaptation of the novel Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny (Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1968), a Hindu-inspired mystical science fiction story which takes place on a colonised planet. Oh, and this imaginary sci-fi film was called Argo, like Jason's vessel which carried him in his voyage to find the Golden Fleece.

And when I say "based on a true story", I actually mean it. The Canadian Caper, as this seemingly unbelievable CIA rescue mission is now called, has been detailed in three books authored by Tony Mendez, a former CIA operative involved in clandestine and covert operations with the CIA during the Cold War.

Tony Mendez, played by Ben Affleck in Argo - the real one, was directly responsible with this daring idea and flew into Iran himself, providing the six American officials with fake Canadian documentation, visas and a prepared back-stories involving the production of Argo - the fake one.

Other members of the cast include Bryan Cranston, playing Mendez's supervisor, Alan Arkin as Hollywood big-shot Lester Siegel and John Goodman as John Chambers, a famous make-up artist who worked on Planet of the Apes and the pointy ears from Star Trek. Both those achievements on their own qualify him as a legend in some social circles, but together..he must be like a God..or something. Chambers was actually decorated by the CIA for his help with undercover ops and was instrumental in setting up the Canadian Caper and making it believable in Hollywood, something only a make-up artist would really know how to achieve.

The trailer itself is loaded with thrillery thrilling moments but mixing sober CIA people with hungover Hollywood people is destined to raise a few smiles on the way as well - queue Siegel actually saying: "If I'm doing a fake movie, it's going to be fake hit!".

IMDb has a user generated rating of 8.4 for this one, while Metascore's aggregated review counting system that no one understands gives it a more than respectable 86 out of 100. So you might not want to miss this one when it comes to a cinema...near you!

Also, see WIRED Magazine's story about the Canadian Caper here: How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans From Tehran


  1. "thrillery thrilling moments"? shakespeare must by writhing in agony. :P

    looks good though. don't care much for ben affleck's acting, but his directing is pretty solid

  2. what? is alliteration friendliness not to your liking? :P