Finally watched the Academy award -winning Argo the other night and must give it an endorsement.
While the film’s introduction initially made me groan, repeating as it did the popular ahistorical rubbish about Mossadegh and Operation Ajax, the CIA coup that toppled him along with other new inaccuracies, it otherwise did an admirable job capturing the dismal spirit of those times.
Iran was portrayed every inch the chaotic, unpredictably despotic, backward, violently thuggish, theocratic Islamist regime wallowing in ignorance and hatred it remains to this day. Bodies swing from construction cranes, angry mobs burn US flags and chant slogans, burly and bearded Basiji and Revolutionary Guardsmen ride motorcycles, scream and brandish automatic rifles, bullying Iranians and conducting mock executions of American hostages. Sneering revolutionary bureaucrats chain smoke in decrepit, steamy offices and stamp yellowed documents.
The American side has the Carter administration in all it’s ineptitude with a country that is dispirited and visibly decaying – a mood captured perfectly by the visual shots half-demolished state of the Hollywood landmark sign. A weary cynicism and defeatism hangs in the air of the offices of high officials. Cyrus Vance is uncharitably but accurately portrayed as calling the shots on Hostage policy and State favors their plan of sneaking the six escapees hiding in the Canadian ambassador’s residence some bicycles with which to pedal 350 miles to the Turkish border.
The CIA is not much better, barring Ben Affleck’s character – exfiltration expert operative Tony Mendez – who defies the orders from the White House or State to stand down and allow the escapees be captured by Iranian security – and his boss who leaps into action to support him and revive the canceled operation.
I won’t give the twists and turns, you can watch those yourself. The film is replete with actual news footage from the time of the American Hostage Crisis and it is just shocking how bad things were back then, which if you lived through it, will jar some memories.