In a world where action movies have blood and guts spilling all over the screen, where there are no good guys, and where American characters are supposed to be rotten to the core, it is nice to see a film that makes one feel good after watching it.

That film would be Argo, the story of how the CIA and Canada managed to sneak out some of the American hostages from the anarchy of the Iranian revolution.

The film starts with painful scenes of hate filled mobs that resemble those we still see on our own TV nightly, although, (given the Shah of Iran’s tyranny, which I am also old enough to know about), these mobs had a bit more reason to hate Americans than the bozos on screen today.

But like all revolutions, this one quickly morphed from a fight for freedom to a nightmare of dictatorship and tyranny, where tens of thousands of innocent people were killed.

The US Embassy was taken prisoner by the mobs (which is, by the way, an act of war) and an American president weakly sat back and tried to negotiate with a government that didn’t really exist. Carter, alas, preferred to work as if the rule of international law still would work. Then he tried a rescue mission that ended in failure. (Ironically, what led to the hostages being released was the fearful reputation of Ronald Reagan as a war monger in the European press. Presented with the possibility of Tehran being a target of American wrath, the Mullahs left the hostages go.)

The Iranian revolution, however, is only the first fifteen minutes of the movie: The real plot is: we have a bunch of civilians, including women, hiding out. How can they escape, when hundreds of people are looking for them?

The answer comes from a CIA agent, played by Ben Affleck, who gets the idea to pretend they are a film company looking for exotic locations.

At this point, the film goes into the theatre of the absurd, and probably the best part: Contrasting the trickster men of LalaLand who see this as something they can do, and making plans to do it, interspersed with even more surreal photos of mobs and violence of hate, is the most original part of the film.

Another nice touch is the contrast between the tricksters of the CIA versus the play by the rules bureaucrats, but unlike other films, in this case one cheers for the CIA and groans at the cluelessness of the President.

This reaches a climax after the President (or maybe his staff) cancels the plan, and then when the CIA agent and hostages refuse to take no for an answer, won’t let CIA contact him. “The President won’t be disturbed” is the answer, but…well, let’s just say that a little creativity here gets through that obstacle too, just iin time to okay the plane tickets.

The details of the film are quite nicely done, although one does think that the suspense of the ending, wondering if they would make it before they were caught, was played a bit too much (in reality, they got on the plane without too many problems).

So should you waste 20 dollars to go to the film? Well, I can think of worst ways to spend an evening.

I give it a 3 star out of five.

It is R rated, presumably for language.


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines.

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