Bayard, Holmes, Movie, No Popcorn – ARGO

By Piper Bayard and Jay Holmes

ARGO movie poster

ARGO is a movie thriller based on Operation ARGO, a CIA undertaking lead by CIA employee Tony Mendez to rescue six US Embassy employees who avoided capture by the Iranian criminals who violated the US Embassy in Tehran in 1979. Ben Affleck directs and stars as Tony Mendez. He is supported by fellow stars Alan Arkin, John Goodman, and Bryon Kranston.

Bayard

George Clooney is one of the producers of this movie, and he makes his mark immediately. ARGO opens with an American apologist historical spin, implying Iran was a happy, thriving utopia right up until big, bad US came in to set up Shah Pahlavi and steal all of the oil. For an actual historical perspective of this time period rather than the fictional version George Clooney offers, see Iran’s Present is Iran’s Past – Part VI, Rise of the Ayatollahs.

Once past the first few historically offensive minutes, ARGO becomes an excellent movie that superbly conveys the intensity of the Iranian Hostage Crisis. In 1979, Americans were horrified at the unprecedented savagery of an attack on our diplomatic enclave. Even the ruthless Japanese Empire had not stooped so low during WWII. Across the country, we were united in front of the evening news, watching daily for something positive as the stress of the crisis and the brutal stories from friends and relatives who’d escaped became a constant background tension in our collective psyche as a nation.

image from ARGO movie

The escape of the six to Canada was a vital success for the West. It not only gave us hope through the long months of that untenable situation, but it renewed our faith in our good neighbors to the north, along with our other genuine allies. ARGO successfully captures the barbarity of the attack to Westerners and to decent Iranians, as well as the intensity of what the hostage crisis and the escape of the six meant to America.

One thing I appreciate most about ARGO is the sarcastic humor, which is expertly laced through the movie. There are some actual laugh-out-loud moments, usually thanks to Arkin and Goodman, that are just enough to prevent the dark subject matter from becoming overwhelming.

Overall, I thoroughly appreciated and enjoyed ARGO, and I would definitely recommend it.

Ben Affleck as Tony Mendez, image from ARGO movie

Holmes

I enjoyed the movie and I am glad I saw it. The story line does not completely follow reality and, fortunately, a few key players are left out of the movie version. Affleck was not attempting to produce a CIA training manual; he was trying to create a watchable movie and he succeeded. He and the producers can be forgiven, and in fact thanked, for not being completely accurate.

Before I give kudos to the folks who made the movie a success, I should take a moment to express my humble but heartfelt gratitude to then Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor and his wife Pat, Canadian Immigration Officer John Sheardown, the Government of Canada, the Embassy and Government of Sweden, and several other brave souls, including Iranians, who will remain unknown. Without their moral and physical courage, the movie would not have been made because the six Americans who escaped the attack on the US Embassy would likely not have survived.

image from US State Department, public domain

As for the movie version of what occurred, I congratulate Ben Affleck for a very good job of acting and directing. Ben, you DON’T look like Tony Mendez, and I’m sure that will help Tony keep his personal life peaceful.

Alan Arkin did what Alan Arkin always does. He’s believable and humorous. Arkin and John Goodman combine to add a great touch to the movie. They play a couple of Hollywood insiders who conspire to help the CIA pull off the unlikely mission. Their performances alone are enough reason to see this movie. To those who follow Hollywood, it might seem implausible that anyone from that world would ever help the CIA. But Hollywood did just that on both this and other occasions, proving not everyone there is a self-absorbed, ignorant degenerate. There are decent people there, as well.

John Goodman and Alan Arkin, image from ARGO movie

The acting was well done all the way through the movie, including those bearded bad guys and the screaming imbeciles in the streets. You might feel a need to cluster bomb them throughout the film, but that just proves they are doing a good job of acting. Leave your cluster bombs and any other heavy weapons at home, please.

The editors did a fine job of weaving in a bit of historical footage without causing the usual brain twist that we normally suffer when historical footage is inserted in a movie. The lighting, sound, and camera work were perfect.

If you want a historical documentary, this isn’t it, but it’s still close enough for the documentary seekers to watch since no good documentaries are available for the events depicted.

As a cranky old spook, it’s often difficult for me to sit through a “spook drama” but I enjoyed this film. Fellow Yankees fans should momentarily forgive the Red Sox fan Affleck his many sins, both real and imagined, and enjoy this tense thriller. I can’t promise that you will be thrilled, but you should be well entertained. However, reasonable and responsible parents should not bring children under twelve to have them frightened by this movie.

Tony Mendez and President Jimmy Carter, image from cia.gov

Holmes and I give ARGO a qualified .44 Magnum rating, which is our highest level of cinematic esteem. It won’t actually change your life unless you happen to experience some sort of spiritual epiphany while in the bathroom at the theater or with your significant other in a dark theater parking lot. But this movie can somewhat illuminate one’s historical perspective, and it can certainly entertain a wide audience.

Have fun at the theater, and don’t get caught being socially inappropriate in the parking lot.

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20 comments on “Bayard, Holmes, Movie, No Popcorn – ARGO

  1. I can’t WAIT to see it. Sounds right up my alley! LOL! Thanks for the fab review you two….

  2. I really want to see this!!

  3. We saw it on the weekend and enjoyed it as much as both of you. We also well remember the pride we Canadians felt for Ken Taylor, his wife, and staff when the event actually occurred … yup, we are geezers. Great review!

  4. Sounds good … all we need is a sitter …

    Cheers!

  5. Diana Beebe says:

    Thanks for the review. I liked the historical references, too. :-)

  6. I’ve seen the previews for this movie and thought it looked good. I was very impressed with Affleck’s decision to cast Cdn actor Victor Garber in that crucial Cdn role. Kudos Ben! Will definitely see this one in movies.

    • Piper Bayard says:

      Please let us know what you think of it from the Canadian point of view. The original cut of the movie was purported to ignore Canadians so they went back and gave it a more well-rounded perspective. I’d love to know what this looks like through Canadian eyes.

  7. Good review, and thanks for the historical background. It doesn’t come out in Australia till next week but I’ll definitely see it.

  8. […] Bayard’s Review of Argo… I hear Ben Affleck knocks the ball out of the park with this one.  Do Piper and Holmes […]

  9. Drew22 says:

    The movie is nowhere near the reality of the situation on the ground. Whenever Hollywood produces a movie they Immediately portray it as something it’s not, a pro propaganda American flag bearing moment. More and More they are copying the Propaganda Program Of Joseph Goebbels. That is what separates a dramatic movie, to one that is based on actual history. Without the Canadians, the Hostages would not have had a chance. There were more Canadian embassy staff involved other than the ambassador. He risked his life along with the embassy’s rights that day. The CIA played a small role in reality.

    This movie is nothing more than bogus fictional drama, similar to the terrible Soap operas. Why people begin to believe Americans are becoming Ignorant is because we continue to see the Propaganda take place of the facts, and less truth coming out. Therefore you are not giving credit to who deserves it. Later on they added some truth into the movie to disguise it.

    face it these people were given Canadian Passports, credit cards, School Diplomas, birth certificates, etc. You cant fake the ones the Government of Canada made for them. They even schooled them how to use Canadian Slang. Your telling me the CIA did most of this, HA. or that the CIA is saying they are actors, no way. They were portrayed as Engineers, teachers, etc with Proper Canadian documentation.

    Any day I would rather watch something based on fact, on 100% history and they leave the drama out of it except for where it is actually necessary. The problem I have is these lies they continue to push out claiming its truth.

    • Piper Bayard says:

      Hi Drew. Thank your for posting in a frank manner.

      I can see that you have very strong emotions about Hollywood in general, this movie in particular, and about the details of the operation that the movie is based on. The belief that all Hollywood movies are pro-American propaganda based on a Goebbels model seems to be based on your emotions rather than any discernible information. You seem to have the mistaken assumption that the actual rescue operation was nothing like the movie portrayed.

      Your preference for documentaries is a simple matter of taste, but your assumption that they would all be based on “100% fact” surprises me given that they are for the most part produced by the same people that produce other movies.

      I salute your desire to see more truth in Hollywood concerning historical dramas. In that same spirit of truth you may wish to honestly examine your feelings about Hollywood and about this movie.

      If you wish to know more about the actual operation, both retired CIA operative Tony Mendez and Canadian diplomats would be able to give your their side of the story directly. Mr Mendez is well known for his honesty and within the limits of security restrictions, I am confident that he would be able to inform you accurately. The hostages, themselves, are perhaps also available for comment.

      Though we disagree, I appreciate your post and I hope that you always feel safe in posting your views here regardless of your positions.

      ~ JAY HOLMES

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