Argo(2012) – A heart warming true story

Argo tells you the facts, and then Argo tells you a story. The story sends its message across that power hungry groups, countries, do what they do best, war and wound. Compassion goes a step beyond and heals the wounds and Argo is a touching story about the compassion of a CIA agent Tony Mendes (played by Ben Affleck), who with the aid of many more, save the lives of 6 American Diplomats during the Iranian hostage crisis.

Directed by: Ben Affleck
Based on: The Master of Disguise by Antonio J. Mendez
 The Great Escape by Joshuah Bearman

Background: The movie starts by narrating the events that led to the hostage crisis.

1950 – Mohammad Mosaddegh becomes democratically elected PM of Iran. He introduces  progressive laws for Iran. His policy of nationalization of Iranian oil (which was until then under the British) earns the wrath of US and Britain.

1953 – In a coup, the US CIA, overthrows Mosaddegh and institutes the Shah of Iran to power. (The US pretty much help revert a upcoming secular democracy in Iran back to absolute monarchy. Well done!)

1979 – The Iranrian Revolution (protesting the Westernization of Iran by the Shah) strengthens. The Shah flees Iran and is granted asylum in the US. Protesters take over the US Embassy in Tehran and hold hostage 52 Americans, blackmailing US to return the Shah to be tried.

Meanwhile, 6 U.S. Diplomats escape the Embassy and are taken in by the Canadian Ambassdor. They are house guests at the Ambassador’s place until Tony Mendez, a CIA agent comes to execute the “best bad idea” CIA had. Argo is that story.

When the diplomats escape the embassy, they shred all the evidence of their existence. But it was going to be only a matter of time, before the Iranians found out about the diplomats. And once found, there was no escape for them, and for the Canadian Ambassor who takes them in. Tony Mendez has a big job to do, to smuggle 6 Americans out of Iran and do that right under the noses of the Iranian officials at the Tehran Airport. How Tony Mendez rescues 6 Americans from Tehran, and brings them back to the US, forms the rest of the movie.

So, while at home, Mendez comes up with the plan – the pretext of location search for a movie. And when CIA plans an operative, it is serious, and it makes scientists look like kids with Lego toys. Mendez travels to LA in search of a Hollywood  producer who would play along with them. John Chambers, a make-up artist helps Mendez meet with producer Lester Siegel. They come up with a script – Argo, a sci-fi movie, set up an office for Argo, and print posters for the movie. Once it was clear to the world that another Star Wars was in the making, Mendez turns to executing his plan. He creates false persona for the 6 people to fit into his Argo movie crew. His plan was simple. He would fly into Tehran, and two days later, fly out of Tehran with the 6 diplomats. The plan, the setbacks, the 6 people’s doubts, their efforts, the Canadians, their housekeeper, the Iranian rebels, Argo, all these factors weave a thrilling tale, that will keep you at the edge of your seats and biting your nails.

The actual CIA movie poster in 1980

In the bigger scheme of things, it is sad when countries fight for power. Innocent lives are lost and the living suffer at the behest of the power hungry. Somewhere buried under these revolutionary events in history are stories that touch the lives of few people. The escape of the 6 diplomats may have had no effect on my life or yours, but the story that has been told, definitely has. Argo is a movie that is a must-watch and especially so today, for every American. Kudos to Ben Affleck, for a story very well told.


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