I remember going to the parade in yellow-ribbon-bedecked downtown D.C., and welcoming the return of the U.S. hostages held in Iran for 444 days. But I had no idea about the complicated plan to free the six Americans who escaped the stormed embassy in 1979, then hid in the Canadian consulate until spirited away by a covert C.I.A. operation. Director and star Ben Affleck turns this declassified true story into the Oscar-nominated "Argo."
The film is simultaneously a tribute to, and indictment of, Hollywood. Agent Tony Mendez (Affleck) masterminds a plan to make a fake movie - also called "Argo," the "best bad idea by far" - in order to enter the country and leave with the fugitives posing as the creative team. Only moviemakers would have enough hubris to enter a bloody coup to scout for locations, where hotheaded insurgents buy the "Star Wars" rip-off script because it parallels their own fight against evil overlords. And it has cool, spacey storyboards.
Potshots at show business include "You can teach a rhesus monkey how to be a director in a day" and that studios "would shoot in Stalingrad with Pol Pot directing if they thought it would sell tickets." Yet the power of storytelling saves the day and several lives.
The video extras are extensive, and include interviews with the real participants and the Canadian government, several "making of" pieces, and a feature-length commentary.
The amazing cast smokes and curses its way across the planet, and includes Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, Victor Garber, Richard Kind, and Best Supporting Actor nominee Alan Arkin. Even President Jimmy Carter delivers the post script, and seems to agree that this is a good movie, and important as Americans continue to figure out their relationship with the Islamic world.
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