'Canadian Caper' leads to freedom
By Suzie Setzler and Krysti Peacock
“On November 4, 1979, as the Iranian revolution reaches its boiling point, militants storm the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, taking 52 Americans hostage. But, in the midst of the chaos, six Americans manage to slip away and find refuge in the home of Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor.”
Academy Award winner Ben Affleck both directs and stars in this real-life drama based on actual events during the late ‘70s under the Carter administration. What proceeds is a film that is raw and gritty, balanced delicately with the dry comedy of bringing the best ‘worst idea’ the CIA could invent to rescue six Americans from capture.
“Argo” is the declassified story of how one CIA agent specializing in ‘exfiltrating’ people from dangerous areas was able to conceptualize a plan to save six Americans who evaded terrorists, by fleeing and taking cover at a Canadian Ambassador’s home. The CIA’s rescue plan on the surface seemed incredibly ludicrous and preposterous; but with little time to spare and harsh weather on the horizon, it was the only viable solution. The project deemed “Argo” was a essentially to create a film studio company that would be scouting locations in order to shoot a sci-fi fantasy movie, much like “Star Wars,” in a country that had a suitable environment with Iran being ideal. With the assistant ‘producer,’ CIA agent Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) flying in, seven would fly out with the assistance of the Canadian government providing new identities and passports for the Americans, taking on the role of a Canadian film crew. With Iran under severe duress, unmentionable civil unrest and chaos, and a deep hatred for the American government, the farfetched plan would either succeed or subsequently, end in terrible tragedy.
Both producing and stepping into the director’s chair, Affleck does an amazing job of capturing the overwhelming sense of urgency in this film. He juxtaposes the stress of the six Americans and how close they come to being captured, and the hilarity and absurdity of the pseudo film studio, which is headed by Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) and makeup artist, John Chambers (John Goodwin). Mendez’s and Siegel’s pitch faked film to Hollywood, a task seemingly quite easy, is essentially the dry humor needed to not detract from the nail-biting drama in Iran.
What Affleck also seems to do is bring enlightenment to this declassified story by opening with a brief backdrop of Iranian political history and the 1953 coup d'état, with British and US support, placing power back into the Shah of Iran’s hands. With years of suffrage under his rule, the people finally overthrow him a year before the hostage crisis, placing the film in a historical context and making it interesting enough for viewers; this is notably felt as we flash forward to the hours before the hostage crisis. But certainly, for those who lived through this era, remembering the 444 days the hostages were held as prisoners and the ‘Canadian Caper,’ the nickname for the rescue plan of the six Americans in hiding, is a hard walk in the park to relive. But as a viewer, we admit, we did so with pride, even though we were uncomfortably stressed to the max until the very last minutes of the film. Again, this is a testament to Affleck’s brilliant vision. Without a doubt, this movie will garner Affleck an academy award for his directing, but even more so, bring back to life a prolific story that seems to envelope the American spirit during a time of hostility. We sing nothing but praise for this film and highly recommend that if you see one movie this month, then make it “Argo.”
Produced, directed and starring Ben Affleck-Tony Mendez
Bryan Cranston-CIA Jack O’Donnell
Alan Arkin-Hollywood legend, Lester Siegel
John Goodman-Make-up artist, John Chambers
Victor Garber-Canadian Ambassador, Ken Taylor
Tate Donovan-Bob Anders
Clea DuVall-Cora Lijek
Christopher Denham-Mark Lijek
Scoot McNairy-Joe Stafford
Kerry Bishé-Kathy Stafford
Rory Cochrane-Lee Schatz