Monday, November 12, 2012


People who want to see a movie about real espionage should give a pass on the new James Bond movie and go to see Argo instead.

In November, 1979, a mob of Iranian "students" broke into the US Embassy and took the staff hostage. Minorities and women were released fairly quickly in the hopes of starting an American civil war (this part is ignored in the movie). The rest of the staff was held hostage for 444 days, finally released just as Ronald Reagan took his oath of office.

But a half-dozen members of the embassy staff got out before they could be taken hostage. Eventually they got out using Canadian passports. What was not generally known until until now is that the CIA was heavily involved in creating a cover story for the embassy staff. How this was done is the plot of Argo.

This is a movie where none of the Americans are even shown with a gun. No one is shot (at least not by an American). But, it still has more suspense than a half dozen Bond movies. It also shows the CIA in a good light, something very rare for a Hollywood movie.

The movie is also a great period piece. Most of the actors were chosen to look like their real counterparts including the big glasses and heavy mustaches that many men wore.

The Iranian revolution came before cell phones and the internet were ubiquitous so, even though I can remember hearing reports about the violence at the time, it is still a shock to see it brought to life.

I have one quibble with the movie and it comes in the first minute. A prologue states that the elected government of Iran was overthrown and the Shaw put in power because the elected government had nationalized oil production and was giving the profits back to the people. This is ridiculous. It was the Cold War and we supported a pro-American government over a Pro-Soviet one.

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