See? My taste in movies isn’t completely horrible! I have to toot my own horn on this one though because I am actually quite knowledgable about the subject on which Argo is based: the Iran Hostage Crisis.
Wait, what? Kate, you never pay attention to politics or history or anything remotely related to the two, so how do you know about something that happened in Iran before you were even born?
Well kind readers, I’ll tell you how. Second semester senior year of college I took a Literary Journalism class with Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down (which turned into a Josh Hartnett movie) and he assigned us his book Guests of the Ayatollah. (I suppose when your book is turned into a multi-million-dollar movie you can teach at a small Catholic college and make your students read your own book.) I used to HATE reading for class — if I was required to read it I despised it before finishing the first page — until I read this book. Since then I have developed a strong appreciation for non-fiction books that read like fiction, that tell a story in such a captivating way you think you are reading something that could not possibly be true.
For 700+ pages Guests of the Ayatollah describes the Iran Hostage Crisis from every standpoint: the hostages, the captors, the president, the military and even the public watching it all unfold on their fuzzy little televisions. It was incredible to read about the hostages’ time in captivity and their relationships with the captors, all the while knowing the information came from hundreds of interviews which Bowden organized and turned into a very powerful story, a story which someone who rarely gives a hoot about government can really get into. I vaguely remember staying in bed to read this book instead of going out on at least one occasion. Second semester senior year? That’s something.
So Argo is about the Iran Hostage Crisis but it’s not based on Bowden’s book (I wonder if he’s upset about that). I’m actually not sure whose book it’s based on, if any, but it tells the story of six Americans who escaped the embassy (where the hostages were taken) and hid in a Canadian ambassador’s home, and how the U.S. government attempted to get them out. Ben Affleck obviously plays the scruffy hero who develops the plan to save these people, which involves creating fake documentation claiming they are Canadians in Iran to scout locations for a SyFy film. Alan Arkin and John Goodman play the “film people”, and their scenes are hilarious. The movie has a good amount of suspense — especially when the “film crew” is walking through an Iranian market — even though you can pretty much guess how it all ends up.
What amazes me about this movie, and what amazed me about the book besides the number of pages and interviews, is how Americans must have felt in Iran at that time and how Americans feel in similar situations today. There were riots, random shootings, hangings; it was simply not safe for a non-Iranian to be outside, yet American journalists and other figures were still there reporting, observing, investigating, living. People like Affleck’s character in the movie and several others in the book were voluntarily entering a war zone; that takes a sense of bravery and invincibility — regardless of whether it’s wrong or right — which I can’t really fathom. Perhaps that’s why I’m not cut out to be an investigative journalist. Or FBI agent.
So if you can’t tell I highly recommend this movie. The truth is even if I hadn’t read the book I would have seen and enjoyed it because of Mr. Affleck — NOT JUST BECAUSE HE’S CUTE BUT BECAUSE HE’S REALLY TALENTED AS AN ACTOR/DIRECTOR/PRODUCER/WRITER — but the book made the movie that much better. I also recommend the book, if you have time for 700+ pages.