Apparently, six Americans had escaped and were taken in by the Canadian ambassador. The United States was aware of this and had to quickly get them out before the Iranians discovered the missing employees.
In the film "Argo," the CIA is trying to devise a plan to get the six out of the country without incident. Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) is the CIA's top infiltration agent specializing in "ex-filtrating" people from difficult situations. He comes up with a plan using a Hollywood film crew scouting locations in Tehran as a cover.
He contacts his friend, John Chambers (John Goodman), a Hollywood award-winning makeup artist, for advice in assembling a "fake" crew to scout locations for a "fake" movie. John enlists the help of friend and veteran film producer, Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) to attend to the logistics. But Lester knows you can't successfully fake a film in an industry that was built on creating fakery. Lester makes the effort to make a "fake film" look as real as possible.
They find the perfect script, titled "Argo." A science fiction story complete with sets resembling Middle Eastern architecture and lots of desert. Lester goes about giving it structure and credibility (of course, all fake) so no one will suspect anything unusual. The CIA and State Department are skeptical the plan will work, but are getting increasingly nervous since the embassy hostage situation has now passed the two month mark. Reluctantly, Tony is given the green light and now must put his Hollywood illusion to the test with the lives of six people hanging in the balance.
The CIA conference room scene filled with high-ranking officials coming up with all sorts of ideas to get the six "safely" out of the country is fascinating to watch. Also the frantic scene in the American Embassy as employees are trying to shred and destroy classified documents before they are taken hostage is very exciting. Both scenes are probably not that far from what happened at the time.
Director Ben Affleck's attention to detail in "Argo" is great. This was an historic event, but it might as well have been ancient history. Late 1970s clothing, wide use of smoking, popularity of large-framed eyeglasses, writing a postcard (and posting it in an airport mailbox) and the wide use of public pay phones plays to the technology of the day. The complete absence of cell phones and computers (that weren't available at that time) made the point that digital technology has become an essential component of our everyday existence.
The multiple scenes of trying to navigate and negotiate in Hollywood are hilarious and are just what you would expect from this segment of our culture. For those not familiar with the American Embassy takeover in Iran in 1979, the beginning of "Argo" has a very good montage of the events that lead up to the takeover and the reasons behind the incident.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)