Oscar®Oscar® Winner for Best Picture, Best Writing of an Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing
NOMINEE FOR: Actor in a supporting role, Best Music (original score), Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing
Movie Review

Argo

MPAA Rating: R for language and some violent images.

Reviewed by: Russell Emory
CONTRIBUTOR

Very Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults Teens
Genre:
Thriller Drama
Length:
2 hr.
Year of Release:
2012
USA Release:
October 12, 2012 (wide—3,250+ theaters)
DVD: February 19, 2013
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures

difficulties of international diplomacy

Iran hostage crisis (U.S. Embassy)

Iranian Revolution

covert rescue mission

Canadian Caper

Wired 2007 article: How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans from Tehran

bravery, courage, self-sacrifice for others

Iran’s former name was Persia.

Featuring: Ben AffleckTony Mendez
Bryan Cranston … Jack O’Donnell
Alan ArkinLester Siegel
John GoodmanJohn Chambers
Victor Garber … Ken Taylor
more »
Director: Ben Affleck
Producer: GK Films
Smoke House
more »
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

“The movie was fake. The mission was real.”

On November 4, 1979, Iranian protesters stormed the American Embassy in Tehran taking everybody inside hostage, or so they thought. Six Americans were able to escape and find sanctuary with the Canadian ambassador. “Argo” is the story of how the CIA got these six out of Iran.

Ben Affleck pulls double-duty in “Argo” as actor/director. The film also stars John Goodman, Bryan Cranston, and Alan Arkin. Many of the supporting characters are played by recognizable actors and actresses, but those four get the top billing. The film is also produced by Affleck with George Clooney and Grant Heslov and the script written by Chris Terrio. The film is based on the books Master of Disguise by Tony Mendez and The Great Escape by Joshua Bearman. Also, inspiration is taken from the 2007 Wired article “How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans from Tehran,” also by Bearman.

I go into all of this background information on this film in order to show the reader that the filmmakers have done their homework. The film also has inspired me to read and research the incidents portrayed in this film. This is a piece of modern history that many who will see this film will remember—and remember very well.

“Argo” begins with a brief synopsis of the country we now call Iran from the days of the Persian Empire to the time of the opening of the movie. The Shah has been granted asylum in the US, and the Ayatollah has taken power. Many Iranian protesters have gathered outside the US Embassy in Tehran to protest the return of the Shah. so he can stand trial for his crimes against Iran.

As many people who have had a basic class in US History know, the protesters storm the compound and take everyone inside hostage. Six members of the staff escape out a backdoor and are given refuge in the home of the Canadian Ambassador.

Word has leaked to the US of the six’s escape and plans begin to be drawn up by the CIA and state department to get them out. Jack O’Donnell (Cranston) who works for the CIA brings in Tony Mendez (Affleck) to advise on the extraction. After hearing a ridiculous scenario where they give the six bikes to ride to the border, Mendez returns home to call his son.

During his conversation with his son, they begin to watch a “Planet of the Apes” movie over the phone together. Mendez gets the idea for the extraction to take place as the six, seven with Mendez, are a Canadian film crew scouting locations for a “Star Wars” like sci-fi film. This is where make-up and FX artist John Chambers (Goodman) and Producer Lester Seigel (Arkin) come in. They set up a fake studio with a fake script to legitimize the back story for the extraction. The idea is pitched to the Secretary of State (Phillip Baker Hall), and the operation is a go.

The movie is rated R. The “f” word is used upwards of 25 times, the “s” word is used 10 times, and both Jesus’ and God’s name are both used 4 times, each as explicatives with God’s name used with the “d” word. There is, of course, violence at the beginning, but it is relatively mild and more of peril than extreme. There are a couple of disturbing images in the film, like a man hung from a construction crane and a man dragged from his home and shot. There is heavy smoking in the movie and some drinking. There is relatively no sex in the movie, but there is a scene where a couple of actresses are wearing what amount to showgirl outfits, but they are briefly shown.

There is some spiritual content. Iran is a Muslim country, so there is exposure to that religion, but no real explanation behind their beliefs. There is also a scene where Mendez looks up as if saying, “Thank You God,” in relief.

This is a film that I will both recommend and not recommend. If you are someone who is very easily offended, STAY AWAY! The language in is foul, and it is throughout the film. Do NOT see this movie if you are offended by language, simply do not. If you can deal with the language, then I would recommend this film to you, and I will explain why.

The movie is excellent. Affleck has found his knack as a director. I would not be surprised if he receives an Academy Award nomination for the film. In order to make the film feel like it was shot in the late 70s/early 80s, Affleck shot the movie on film and cut the frames in half and blew up the images 200% to increase the graininess of the film. The film uses actual news footage from the Iran Hostage Crisis in 1979-1980, intercut with the footage shot by Affleck and his crew. This movie was just well made, all around.

The story is well paced, and the actors are extremely believable. Affleck’s character is very dry, and the chemistry between Affleck and Arkin is very good, as is Affleck’s with Cranston and Goodman. There is a scene between Arkin and Affleck that really stood out that I would like to tell my readers about, and then I will let those of you who want to see this movie go.

Mendez and Seigel are sharing lunch on one of the studio sets. Mendez asks Seigel about his family. Seigel tells about his daughters and how he and his wife are divorced. Seigel reveals that the lies and crassness that he uses as a producer infiltrated his home life, and he could not separate the two. Mendez’s face tells all. He has the same problem and wants to work out the issues with his wife for his son. The scene just really stands out to me as a profound scene, and I wonder just how many of us have those same issues in our lives. It is just one really good scene in a well made movie

Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Extreme / Sex/Nudity: Moderate

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—This is a must see movie because of the content. It is a well made thriller about true events. I am glad it was made, and we need to know that we have enemies in the world hellbent on destroying this nation. I was so frightened the last 30 minutes that I was literally shaking in my seat. At the end, we all clapped, and then I cried.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Halyna, age 66 (USA)
Positive—My husband and I went to see this and loved it. MUST SEE MOVIE due to the content. I HAVE BOYCOTTED HOLLYWOOD AND THE MEDIA for nearly 40 years, so thought FOR SURE that I would walk out of this one, but… I didn’t. If one can endure the constant “F” bombs (pretend you are with a toddler who is throwing a tantrum or something), then the rest of the movie really tells the truth of the situation in the Middle East. It’s scary stuff over there and will become a staple of U.S. history perhaps. Really super good movie. I take my hat off to Ben Affleck. Can you say Oscar?
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Sknb113, age 61 (USA)
Positive—I saw “Argo” with some church friends on opening day. Going in, I was hoping the R-rating was due to war violence. However, after the first few minutes, I got the impression that profanity would be used throughout the movie. That was a little turn-off for me. With that said, the acting and filmmaking was first-class. Incorporating real news footage from 1979-1980 into the movie really draws in the audience like we were living it out. None of my friends and I have ever heard of Tony Mendez (portrayed by Ben Affleck), and most of us have forgotten about the Iran Hostage situation in 1979. After all, it was about 33 years (2 generations) ago.

“Argo” is suspenseful and unpredictable. I like how the movie portrayed real-life heroes. We see nay-sayers becoming heroes when push comes to shove. We see people who did not want to “get involved” becoming involved because they saw how desperate things were. more »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Keith, age adult (USA)
Positive—This was a great movie. I’d recommend for anyone 15+. I didn’t find anything “morally offensive” except the language was kind of bad. No sex/nudity at all, and the violence was surprisingly limited. The movie was filled with great actors and at times really funny, though if you’re offended by the F-word I’d recommend staying away from this movie. When the movie ended, the entire audience applauded, and so did I. It was a great story and a pretty good history lesson.

I find this similar to The King’s Speech. Both are great movies for everyone, including teens, in that they are smartly made and in a way “educational.” But, they both are rated R because of the F words. IMO every teen should see these two and they wouldn’t mind anyway, both are great. Don’t let the language stop you. Middle and High Schoolers here the same language as this everyday anyway.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Nathan, age 18 (USA)
Positive—Argo is an interesting political movie. I had known only about the premise of the movie through the previews, but I wasn't sure how good this movie would actually be. My dad and I, feeling the need to see a movie, went to the local cinema to see this, after hearing nothing but good things from other critics about this movie. And sure enough, everything they said about this movie was true. Great performances, great camera work, great overall quality. Yeah, this movie is not for kids, because of the violence and extreme amounts of language, but it was never meant to be because of the R rating. The thing that really interested me about this film was that they were able to incorporate ACTUAL footage from the incident in Iran, which made it even all the more enjoyable. Overall a very good film. Will it be in my DVD pile? Possibly. Like I said, good but leave the children home if you decide to see this. Excellent work to the cast and crew!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 5
Alexander Malsan, age 22 (USA)
Positive—During the heat of the Iranian revolution, in 1979, a group of militants and student revolutionaries attacked the United States embassy in Tehran, Iran. This revolution was noted for the return of the exiled cleric Ayatollah Khomeni, and the overthrow of Mohammad Palhavi, the Shah of Iran. The Shah got asylum in America, and the militant takeover of the embassy was not only a retaliation for giving asylum to the Shah but a strategy to force America to return the Shah to Iran to be sentenced and executed. 52 Americans held hostage in an effort to bargain with the American government while President Carter refused to yield to the militants” demand, referring the hostages as victims of terrorism. Among the chaos, six embassy officials escaped to the residence of the Canadian Ambassador, who sheltered them in his cellar. While the tension between the United States and the revolutionary government of Iran under Ayathollah Khomeni seems to worsen every passing day, the US State Department begins to explore all possible options to rescue the hostages, and of all the bad plans they could find, the “best bad plan” comes from a CIA “exfiltration specialist” Antonio Mendez.

His plan was to create a cover story for a fake sci-fi film called “Argo” and rescue the embassy staff as Canadian filmmakers with alternate identities and Canadian passports. Mendez and his supervisor enlist John Chambers, a makeup artist who worked with the CIA before, and through him producer Lester Siegel, together they publicize the fake movie under the fake studio (Studio Six). Tony Mendez enters Iran posing as a producer for “Argo,” as part of scouting the country’s exotic locations, and meets with the embassy staff hiding in the Canadian Ambassador’s residence. He introduces them to their new identities and issues their alternate Canadian passports, yet they are reluctant to go through the seemingly impossible plan—as there are no alternative choice and Mendez himself is risking his life for them, they agreed to play along. more »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Cyril Thomas, age 32 (United Kingdom)
Positive—I RARELY go to anything more than a PG-13, and when I do, I almost always regret it. And like other reviewers, I had assumed the R rating was due to violence. Well, the beginning of the movie left no doubt where the rating came from. Each F bomb was like a slap in the face. I flinched each time, I’m sure!

That being said, this was an EXCELLENT movie in every other respect. Gripping, authentic, inspiring, and dare I say, educational! I have recommended Argo enthusiastically to Christian friends, but like the main review, I make clear that the language is extraordinarily foul. And I’ve been amazed myself at friends I thought would be completely offended by the movie, but who have come out of it as enthusiastic as I!

Do I wish they’d done it without the language. YES. A lot more folks would see it. I would have certainly recommended this to teens to learn more about that era, had it not been for the language. Yes, I’m sure the language was true to the original events and people, but I think the story could have bee told without it. Nevertheless, if you can manage to get past the language, SEE IT!!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Kathy, age 52 (USA)
Neutral
Neutral—This film is definitely not for children. I was impressed how the history of this incident was placed in this film to portray what happened. Very impacting, but could have done without all of the provocative outfits during the Hollywood party. As far as language, at one point every time someone said the name of the film, they placed the f word behind it, that got old. Besides that, I liked the movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Chele, age 37 (USA)
Neutral——This is a solid political thriller filled with great suspense and solid acting all around. Ben Affleck sure has been proving himself as a great director. Unfortunately, the film could have easily avoided the F-words. Sure, I understand the situation must have been tense, and I bet foul language was used in the real life situation. I can tolerate some language, but when it’s overused, it just gets annoying and sounds pointless after a while. One of the lines was “Argo f*** yourself”. Okay, maybe you can do it once just for laughs, but, after that, it just gets old and annoying.

Other than the language there was a brief scene with some scantily clad women. This film could have been easily rated PG-13 if the F-words were cut out. I just think the excessive language mars the script altogether. Overall, this was still a great movie, but I can’t recommend it for anyone under the age of 15 or 16, due to the language.

My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4½

—Curtis, age 20 (USA)
Negative

none

Comments from young people
Positive—Argo certainly keeps you on the edge of your seat. Ben Affleck works magic in front of and behind the camera. One of the best movies of the year. Violence: Moderate Profanity: Moderate Sex/Nudity: Minor
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—C, age 15 (USA)

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