Earlier today I went to see the film Argo at the cinema. I had a vague idea of what it was about, having seen trailers, and thought it would be worth seeing to expand my knowledge of the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the following hostage crisis.
So I was therefore disappointed that the film began in the aftermath of the revolution. I suppose this is down to not researching it enough as any synopsis would have told me this. I did appreciate a cartoon-style history at the beginning to explain the events leading up to the revolution, however.
Argo begins during anti-American protests outside the US embassy, unnervingly reminiscent of events just a year ago. This shocking display of senseless violence kicks off the film with a particular tone of chaos and fear. The image of terrified diplomats watching the mob break into the complex is one of the most striking images from the film.
However, Argo soon loses this tone for a lighter one, as the CIA contemplate how to rescue six diplomats who escaped and are hiding in the Canadian embassy, after being inaccurately turned away by Britain and New Zealand. Although not to my taste, the comedy scenes during planning the bizarre scheme – involving a fake science fiction film – to rescue these diplomats were done well.
Events regarding the diplomats holed up in Canada’s embassy are portrayed in much detail, if glorifying the role of the CIA, but very little is told of the fifty-six other diplomats being held hostage in the embassy by Islamic students and militants. The film is interspersed with scenes showing them held at gunpoint in the embassy, and a very chilling scene showing a mock-execution, but very little is explained or mentioned about their predicament – leaving me initially confused.
The use of suspense in Argo makes this a film to be watched from the edge of a seat – I barely took breath as the car carrying disguised diplomats drove through a demonstration – which really causes the audience to experience their feelings of terror. There are many points in which characters are faced by an angry and dangerous mob, or security forces are seen plotting, which is made all the more intimidating by not providing subtitles over the Persian language, so we English speakers must infer their intentions from the threatening body language.
Overall, Argo is a great film. It isn’t what I expected, but is not the worse for that. It should not be seen solely as entertainment nor as historical education, but a blend which combines elements of both to make a highly watchable film which also teaches the audience bits and pieces of the Iranian Revolution. Not a ‘must-see’ film, but definitely worth watching!