Cast Members: Ben Affleck played Tony Mendez who went by the alias of Kevin Costa Harkins, a CIA operative who coordinated a secret operation to rescue 6 diplomats who were in Tehran during the Iran Hostage Crisis in 1979. Bryan Cranston played Jack O’Donnell a CIA manager. Alan Arkin played Lester Siegel a Hollywood producer who gave some comic relief during the drama with Ben’s character. John Goodman played a Hollywood make-up artist named John Chambers. Both Lester Siegal and John Chambers helped Tony Mendez come up with a fake movie production, fake write ups in the newspaper telling the public about this new movie being made to throw off the Iranians and come up with a fake movie production building that was only going to be rented out for a little while. Tate Donovan played one of the hostages named Bob Anders who was the oldest one in the group. Clea DuVall played Cora Lijek, the wife of Mark Lijek who was played by Christopher Denham. The Lijeks were newlyweds who had been in Iran for a few months before the hostage crisis began. Rory Cochrane played Lee Schatz who was an agriculture attaché. Scoot McNairy played Joe Stafford, the only one of the group who spoke Farsi which came in handy at a pivotal point in the movie. Kerry Bishé played Kathy Stafford, the wife of Joe Stafford. There are many other characters, but I just wanted to mention who played the six hostages, producer, make up artist and Tony Mendez to keep this podcast short. All in all, there were some very talented actors and actresses who played pivotal characters who helped weave this fake movie production into reality for the rescue operation.
Basic movie facts: This movie had some embellishments here and there and was not filmed exactly how it really happened. For example, the part where you see Joe Stafford speaking in Farsi to convince the guards about why they were there, was not mentioned in Tony’s book. In fact, Tony described it as they had been waiting in a waiting lounge for quite some time due to a 20 minute mechanical problem on the plane. After the 20 minute wait, they walked into the bus and got on the airplane. In the book, Tony does not mention the Iranians chasing them down the tarmac in police cars. So, I’m not sure that even happened. Maybe it did, I don’t know. Tony said that he wore a green turtle neck and tweed blazer during the entire operation, but in the movie Ben’s character wore something completely different. Little details like that, I find to be important to be exactly like what happened in real life. A bit of a fun fact thrown in here. Did you know that when Tony’s wife was asked who she would have wanted to play her husband, she replied Tommy Lee Jones? Tony even said that when he watched the movie, he wasn’t even sure if they were going to make it out of there! It scared him! Let’s what you call high drama for the sole purpose of entertainment.
Pros: This movie certainly captured the essence and spirit of what happened during the hostage crisis, whether some parts were embellished or not. What’s important here is that the story has finally been told and the heroes can finally be given their well deserved recognition for their part in helping rescue the six diplomats. This movie also showed how two countries who have close ties with one another, can help each other in a time of crisis. I never realized what a huge part Canada had in this operation. Thank you Canada for all your help! On another note, I admired how Ben was able to play a steady yet very calm demeanor as Tony Mendez. With a job like he had, this characteristic is highly important to have when you are faced with a very intense situation. There is no time or room to be anxious. His demeanor during the film, helped keep things in perspective and practicality. The filter for the movie was perfect and fit in nicely for that time period of the 7o’s and early 80’s. Anything clearer would have taken away from the “feel” of the movie for that time period. This movie won Oscars for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing and Best Picture.
Cons: I didn’t like how Ben kept looking around suspiciously all the time. As a spy, you have to fit in with your surrounding and not give yourself away and look all paranoid. I just felt the “looking around, over your shoulder” type of glances was way over the top. I felt like saying to the screen, “Dude, relax. Just look straight ahead when you walk. This isn’t James Bond”. No offense to James Bond, it’s one of my favorite franchises only for the sake of a silly spy entertainment that can’t be taken seriously. The Bourne Identity is even worse in depicting the spy community. Mission Impossible is my favorite because it just is. Period. You can’t go wrong with Mission Impossible! Anyways, there were moments where the audio went from very quiet to suddenly being loud due to a sudden change in scenery. I had to keep changing the volume on the remote. The audio of what the actors were saying would be muffled or too far away only for me to be jolted with a sudden sound. I wish the audio had been more even throughout the movie. There was a part which was so predictable where Tony is in his hotel room after he was told to abort the operation and the movie makes you feel as though he has to accept that fact. I knew that he was going to go ahead with the plan anyways because that’s what a person with a good conscience does whether that is right or not by the authorities.
Music score: I enjoyed the music score by Alexandre Desplat. Alexandre composed a moody, eclectic and ethnic sounding soundtrack for the movie Argo. Some of Alexandre’s music have been in movies such as The King’s Speech, The Ghost Writer, Harry Potter and the Incredible Mr. Fox to name a few, respectively. I’ve always been a fan of Arabic music and the exotic sounds embedded in the symphony. I dated an Arabic guy for a few years and I got very use to listening to his music that I grew to like it. Then again, I like music from all over the world. I can tell which music comes from what country such as Morocco or Egypt. I have a good ear. The song “Cleared Iranian Airspace” score was so beautiful and fit the mood of the scene for when the diplomats crossed over from Iran into Turkey. The mood was somber, tender, cautious but very reflective if not haunting. If anything, the song was memorable for all they went through. It almost brought tears to my eyes hearing this soundtrack for this scene. I think I might have tried to hold back tears because it was a beautiful scene and one I’ll never forget.
Favorite quote: I have a favorite, but I can’t put it on here. I do like the one where Jack O’Donnel says “This is the best bad plan we have… by far, sir.” in regards to the many different options they were brainstorming about how to rescue the diplomats. The alien spaceship in the desert was so far out there, it was the craziest one of all the other ideas they had floating around the office.
Audience reaction: None. I watched this at home.
Relatability: As a niece of a former diplomat who worked at an American Embassy in an undisclosed country, I could relate to this movie as a family member. As a child who went to school with children of diplomats in my country, I could relate in meeting their parents who were representing the United States in foreign ground. I gravitated to this movie because I love true stories of heroism and courage. I find it inspiring. I thought this movie was well made and well deserved of its awards. If you haven’t seen it, please do. I have one more thing to say. Thank you Canada!
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Video credit: FilmsActuTrailers