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Movie Review: Argo

Every once in a while a movie hits the Zeitgeist perfectly. Two days ago during the vice presidential debate, the situation in Iran was one of the main topics. There are people in this country who want enter into a preemptive war against this Middle Eastern nation of 75 million people, over 60% of whom are younger than 30 years old. They were not even born when the Iranian Hostage Crisis of 1979 through 1981 was underway, something I remember vividly. I remember seeing the frightening pictures on television, of flag burning, blindfolded hostages and endless street mobs burning effigies of Uncle Sam. I was a young man of 23 then,  and I could not understand how a country could turn that violent against our country, so quickly.

I had personal friends in Iraq from my time as a foreign exchange student. I knew Iranian students in our country. Most of the Iranian fighter pilots had been trained in the United States. What happened?

Most Americans today don’t really understand Iran, its history, and why it is acting like it is today. Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is rumored to have been one of the hostage takers in 1979 (there are theories pro and con on that subject).

But why am I telling you all this in a movie review? The movie Argo is based on true events that took place in early 1980. Six of the people in the American Embassy, just before it was seized by the Iranian mob, escaped and found refuge in the private residence of the Canadian Ambassador to Iran. The hostage takers didn’t yet know they were missing, but the trail unraveled steadily. Time was running out for the hidden Americans. The CIA initiated a covert mission, different from any that we have heard about before, to get them out of the country before events would close in on them.

Argo tells their story.

During the very first minute, the movie narrates the history of modern Iran. The stage is set for us to understand why the Shah was hated so much, why they took American hostages in the first place, why America was held up as the great Satan, and what motivated a nation that was westernized and prosperous to descend into medieval theocracy and despotism within a few short years.

Ben Affleck directed and starred in this masterpiece. He plays a CIA operative on a mission to get these six unfortunate Americans out of the country. A powerful supporting cast of John Goodman, Bryan Cranston and Alan Arkin help make the story real and give it a dark, comedic flavor at times. I was on the edge of my seat from the beginning to the end. Argo is one of the best movies I have watched in a long time. I was entertained, I learned much, and it helped me understand Iran and its trials.

Ayatollah once, ayatollah twice, I am not gonna tell you again.

Don’t Argo with me and see this movie!

Rating: ****

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