Did I know that six U.S. diplomats were in need of rescue from Iran during the 1979 hostage crisis before I watched this film? Did I even know there was a hostage crisis in 1979? Sadly, the answer to both questions was "No." At best I remembered my father discussing the Iran-Contra hearings, but that was a decade later and under an entirely different president.
This film, directed by Ben Affleck, is a historical thriller that takes us on a behind-the-scenes tour of how our nation dealt with this crisis. In particular, how the real-life hero Tony Mendez, played by Affleck, dealt with it. Tony proposes "the best, bad idea" with regards to the rescue mission. And just what is the best of the bad ideas? Tony posing as a Canadian film producer that is scouting movie locations in Iran for the new sci-fi flick, Argo. I agree. This is a really bad idea.
The film takes us on a thrill ride of events that have you wondering if or when this entire plan will fall apart. I can remember at least five different scenes in which I thought, "The jig is up." It is able to maintain the tension until the very end and even movie-goers that claimed to remember this historical crisis were on the edge of their seats in anticipation (after the movie eavesdropping).
Aside from the nail-biting anxiety, I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the real heroes of the story. These included not only Affleck's character, but also Alan Arkin's Hollywood film producer and Bryan Cranston's CIA supervisor. Arkin and Cranston both bend the rules to assist Affleck which immediately endeared them to me. They also added the perfect amount of humor to this tense script by demonstrating their exasperation with all the red tape involved.
Ben Affleck has never been more attractive than when wearing his seventies' duds, long mop and a full beard. For once, facial hair takes off ten years instead of adding. He looks young, earnest and just like the hero we need. But hey, don't take my word for it. As I was leaving the cinema, I overheard the older gentlemen saying to his companions, "It doesn't get any better than that." I couldn't agree more and like me, you just might learn something.