22 January 2013

Argo review

Argo is a movie about a bizarre CIA operation dealing with the extraction of US embassy personnel from Iran in the 80's. After the fall of the Shah the Iranians storm the US embassy and take the personnel hostage. A diplomatic crisis is sparked, the US are trying to get their people home while the Iranians demand that the Shah who is hiding out in the US to be is extradited as terms for the release of the hostages. Amidst the chaos 6 employees of the embassy manage to escape and hide out at the French consul’s house. Back in the US the government and CIA are trying to figure out how to resolve the main hostage situation as well as how to extract those 6 people who have slipped under the Iranian radar - but who will no doubt be in serious trouble if they should be captured and exposed as Americans.

Agent Tony Mendez comes up with "the best bad plan" the CIA have at their disposal, a covert operation disguised as a Hollywood production run by a Canadian film crew. Of course no one takes him seriously because it sounds so preposterous. In the end however, the CIA sets up a fake movie production complete with actors, screenplay, producers, an office, storyboards, press events and a bunch of other stuff so that it all appears legit. It is then up to agent Mendez  to go to Iran, rendezvous with the 6 embassy employees, brief them on their "Canadian film crew characters" and try to extract them all out of the country.

It's a really well made movie that is quite fascinating and at times humorous - but mostly exciting with tense situations. Even if you know how it ends (it's based on a real event), it is still really tense to watch the interactions between agent Mendez and the various Iranian government officials, militiamen etc. The movie also tells a short background story of why the Iranians are pissed on the US to give you a framework for the entire situation, though I don't think the movie is taking any particular side and instead focuses on the operation itself. While being based upon the actual CIA operation, some liberties have been taken to make it a bit more “Hollywood” than the actual events but that doesn’t make it any less good and to be honset the amount of "action sequences" is very minimal and not really distracting from the actual plot.

A highly recommended thriller 9/10

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