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Argo and the Canadian Caper
October 12, 2012 8:42 AM   Subscribe

Today marks the release of the film Argo, about the effort to smuggle out six Americans from Iran after the fall of the shah. The film is based on the actual events of the Canadian Caper, during which the Canadian embassy and staff in Iran sheltered the six Americans and, in cooperation with the CIA, provided Canadian identities and passports for the six. They were then smuggled out under the ruse of being part of the film crew for a science fiction film based on Roger Zelazny's Lord of Light.

Over concerns that the film underplays the role of the Canadians, Ben Affleck invited Ken Taylor (the Canadian ambassador to Iran during the hostage crisis) to rewrite the movie's post-script.
posted by never used baby shoes (68 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Man, when did Ben Affleck become a pretty damn good director and selector of projects? He certainly didn't pick it up from Jennifer Garner.
posted by Etrigan at 8:47 AM on October 12, 2012


Stupid Iranian hostages. I want a Kirbytech Lords of Light as a real thing!
posted by Artw at 8:47 AM on October 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


Well, at least they didn't just straight-up change their nationalities...although in this case it would have been hard to turn them into Americans.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:49 AM on October 12, 2012


Eh, the movie is pretty clear about the risks Taylor took. It focuses on the CIA ruse, but that's Hollywood -- and the shifts between the intense sections of the film set in Iran and the jaunty caper-flick air of the stuff set in Hollywood are actually a pretty nifty commentary on American attitudes about our involvement in the Middle East over the years.
posted by eugenen at 8:55 AM on October 12, 2012


Among the concerns were the fact that many Canadians felt that Ben Affleck was rewriting history, and that (until now) Taylor had not been contacted by anyone involved with the film--not even the actor who was portraying him.

Personally, I figured that this was par for the course and wasn't overly concerned (see U-571, as mentioned above). American filmmaker makes Americans the real heroes? Shocking!

But I have a greater understanding of the offence that some in the Canadian media were expressing recently now that I've read this:

Initially, the postscript implied that Taylor received undue credit for sheltering and helping the six diplomats escape. The CIA, the film suggests, were the real heroes but chose not to take credit for fear of endangering the American hostages that remained in Iran.

I'm glad that the post-script has been changed.
posted by asnider at 8:58 AM on October 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is why I will always love Canada and Canadians.
posted by tommasz at 9:02 AM on October 12, 2012


Don't love us for Argo.

Love us for our maple syrup.

Maple syrup is AWESOME.
posted by Imperfect at 9:04 AM on October 12, 2012 [8 favorites]


Well now the fit is really going to hit the Shan.
posted by The Bellman at 9:15 AM on October 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


Listened to some of the dialog on NPR yeaterday, the writing on this is really tight - reminded me a lot of Burn After Reading:
"You have another better bad idea than this?"

"This is the best bad idea we have, sir. By far."

"Then the United States Government has just sanctioned your science-fiction movie."
Awesome.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:27 AM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I actually heard that npr story a few days ago (a short-ish interview w/ Affleck about this film), and it made me think that it might actually be possible for liking Ben Affleck to be a thing.
posted by herbplarfegan at 9:27 AM on October 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Actually, I think it might not be the same story. Anywho,
He says some really insightful stuff about the creative process.
posted by herbplarfegan at 9:30 AM on October 12, 2012


Now I know what this tweet was about. I thought that Ben Affleck had gotten some hostages out of Iran, and I was really confused.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 9:30 AM on October 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


umm When the CIA sanctions something it is usually fatal...
posted by pdxpogo at 9:31 AM on October 12, 2012


I once met Laverna Dollimore, who was made a Member of the Order of Canada for her part in the Canadian Caper, and in her retirement was a friend of my great aunt's. She died last year.

I'm not seeing her name in the cast list.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:31 AM on October 12, 2012


Show me where it says anything about Canada in either the Bible or the Constitution and maybe then I'll believe that Ronald Reagan created it.
posted by srboisvert at 9:32 AM on October 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Affleck is a mediocre actor who lucked into some choice roles - he's a very good director, tho. Gone Baby Gone was a fantastic film.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:32 AM on October 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


It's in the related links, but I thought it was worth calling attention to this previous How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans from Tehran link.
posted by Zed at 9:33 AM on October 12, 2012


Looking forward to this movie. I know you should never trust the trailer, but it looks good.
posted by arcticseal at 9:33 AM on October 12, 2012


I still have visceral memory of all the signs that had their letters changed to messages like MERCI CANADA. So there was definitely a widespread appreciation of their role at the time of the incident.

I'm confused about "postscript implied that Taylor received undue credit" -- it seems utterly bizarre. I suppose it's possible that people who weren't old enough to remember it directly would be capable of misconstruing things, but why on earth would they feel the need to go out of their way to slight the embassies (the Swedes also helped) who sheltered our diplomats? It doesn't make a lot of sense, even if the statement may have come across in a way that minimized their role.

Man, when did Ben Affleck become a pretty damn good director and selector of projects?

His debut Gone Baby Gone was a pretty good (if flawed) movie -- clearly he had solid directing capability just waiting inside him to be let out. I guess The Town is both liked and disliked, but more for its portrayal of Boston than its execution. I have absolutely no problem with the idea that he was (nearly) always misused as an actor, and that writing/directing is his true métier.
posted by dhartung at 9:33 AM on October 12, 2012


My problem with The Town is that I can't buy Affleck in the role. There may be some irony there since its where he grew up.
posted by Artw at 9:35 AM on October 12, 2012


Saw Affleck on Fox talking about this or something. Looked pretty good.
posted by LEDwholesale at 9:35 AM on October 12, 2012


Here's the Wired article from five years back.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 9:35 AM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wonder what exactly the original postscript said. Some commenters on the Maclean's article are saying they saw the earlier cut at the Toronto film fest, and found nothing objectionable in the pre-edit postscript, fwiw.
posted by shortfuse at 9:42 AM on October 12, 2012


it made me think that it might actually be possible for liking Ben Affleck to be a thing.

It was easy to see Ben Affleck as a Movie Star but not an Actor. It must have been easy to cast him in Movie Star roles, due to his looks. Then I saw Changing Lanes and thought he deserved an Oscar for it. It's an excellent but widely underrated movie. It starts out as if it's going to be a standard "revenge thriller" but explores much deeper issues. I've been an Affleck fan ever since. I loved Gone Baby Gone, and will be seeing Argo right after work today.
posted by The Deej at 9:43 AM on October 12, 2012


You guys know Argo isn't a real movie, right? Who knows who they're smuggling out of America with this thing.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:50 AM on October 12, 2012 [21 favorites]


Zach Baron at Grantland: 'Argo' and the Redemption of Ben Affleck
posted by davidjmcgee at 9:54 AM on October 12, 2012


I read the Wired article and it's a cool story, and this may be a cool movie.

But: this film about Iran, right now?

In the context of tightening American sanctions, American-backed terror bombings, and a huge American military in the Gulf?

I won't suggest that Ben Affleck takes orders from Romney or Obama, but this movie (sounds like it) fits all too neatly with the mood of an America gearing up for war.
posted by grobstein at 9:56 AM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Perhaps the Ecuadorians might want to take some pointers from this film.
posted by brokkr at 10:00 AM on October 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I skimmed an article about Argo earlier this morning and somehow I managed to get the impression that Argo was actually a finished version of the film that they'd been pretending to make. Like, someone had heard about this event and thought, "Hey, wouldn't it be awesome if we actually made that movie, using any clips that were filmed at the time if they still exist," etc. Alas, no.
posted by marginaliana at 10:01 AM on October 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm sorry, I can't get past The Town. I'll be sure to catch this on video. Although it's nice to hear about a guy in Hollywood on an upswing as opposed to the cashing-in shitshow I've had to endure this summer, from the likes of Whedon and Scott.
posted by phaedon at 10:03 AM on October 12, 2012


It's not hard to understand why the colorful movie angle is being focused on, but reading the Wired piece made it seem like it was not really of all that much significance in the way the actual situation played out. There's no suggestion the production was ever seriously looked into by the Iranians, and after all this preparation of backstories and everything, apparently you had one of the hostages just flat-out refusing to play along as they were leaving the country, turning down a disguise and openly calling people by their real names. Rather than seeming like a perfectly-wrought escape plan where all the tiny little intricate pieces worked together perfectly, it seems more like an over-engineered cover story that only worked due to real risk being assumed by the people relegated to bit player status (i.e. the Canadian embassy, and those forging the immigration documents) and absurd luck that they weren't recognized or looked into that thoroughly.
posted by anazgnos at 10:03 AM on October 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Don't love us for Argo.

Love us for our maple syrup.

Maple syrup is AWESOME.


If the Canadians can't control their maple syrup stockpile, that's gonna be a red line.
posted by Jahaza at 10:05 AM on October 12, 2012


Zach Baron at Grantland: 'Argo' and the Redemption of Ben Affleck

"The Town [is] as good a heist film as was made in this century."

Very few heist movies have been made in this century. The Town was derivative nonsense.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 10:17 AM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


My dad went to a North Stars game (they were a Minnesota-based National Hockey League team before moving to Dallas and dropping the "North" from their name) shortly after the Americans' departure from Tehran and the Canadians role in sheltering them and getting them out was made public. I think it may have been the night after they flew out of Tehran, but I'm not sure. He told me this story when I was a kid. (We were at a hockey game and I asked why O Canada was being performed. I'd never heard more than one national anthem at a sporting event and, although I'd been to Canada, I didn't really understand what it meant when people said Canada and the U.S. were separate countries.)

The North Stars were playing one of the Canadian teams, and my dad said the applause and cheering for "O Canada" was amazing. In telling me the story, my dad again expressed how positive he felt about Canada. That has always stayed with me. I've never lost that sense that the U.S. is very lucky to have such a great neighbor and ally.
posted by Area Man at 10:33 AM on October 12, 2012 [8 favorites]


Gone Baby Gone was a fantastic film.

In an ideal world, Ben Affleck sticks to directing and Casey Affleck does every acting, ever.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:36 AM on October 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ha. I love the revealing comment from the screenwriter at asnider's Macleans link, after being asked about the made-up nail-biting climax:

As for the fanciful airport climax, screenwriter Chris Terrio said, “There is a catharsis when the plane takes off. To create that in cinematic form requires a lot of amp-up and drama to replicate what the house guests might have felt at that moment.”
posted by mediareport at 10:46 AM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, will the fake film be a DVD extra? Please say yes.
posted by ckape at 11:29 AM on October 12, 2012


Shouldn't a Canadian film titled Argo be about the CFL?
posted by ceribus peribus at 11:47 AM on October 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


You're welcome CIA. I know we've waited awhile to call in our favour, but we're gonna need you to go ahead and sanction Gary Bettman.

-Canada
posted by mannequito at 12:00 PM on October 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


I find this conflict SO WEIRD. I saw it at TIFF, and my sense was that the Canadians were portrayed as one million percent true honest to God heroes, it was just that the Americans couldn't explain what their role was. The Canadian ambassador is clearly shown to be risking his neck for them at very, very great potential and actual cost to himself; this is probably the most saintly role Victor Garber has ever played, which is saying something.

There's footage of Americans waving signs about how much they love and appreciate what Canada did, and my sense of the movie was that those signs were not presented ironically or in a "look, they don't know what really happened" kind of way. They were presented as absolutely justified and correct, even if based on an incomplete understanding. Yes, according to the movie, the CIA couldn't reveal its role. That takes nothing away from the role of the Canadians, without whom, from the film's POV, these people would never have been alive to be rescued by any method, wacky or otherwise.

this movie (sounds like it) fits all too neatly with the mood of an America gearing up for war

See it before you decide. I don't agree, but you'd have to see it for yourself.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 12:07 PM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ben Affleck has been in some bad movies, and given some mediocre-to-bad performances, but I don't think he's a terrible actor overall. When cast correctly, he can be effective. For example, the roles of uber-jock in "Going All The Way" and the meathead-taken-in-by-a-beautiful-girl-but-who-finally-wises-up in "Reindeer Games" both used aspects of his persona quite well. And he was OK as Matt Murdock in "Daredevil" (though the movie wasn't good overall), as Jack Ryan, and in some other things in which he's played some variation on a square-jawed hero type.

What I've seen of his directing has been quite good so far, as I thought both "Gone Baby Gone" and "The Town" were both well-paced, entertaining films that also contained some solid individual performances from the actors. If nothing else, it seems that Affleck's experiences as an actor may have made him capable of drawing good performances from a cast when he directs. I don't go to movie theaters much any more, but will definitely catch "Argo" on DVD.
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 12:20 PM on October 12, 2012


Affleck is aces in Hollywoodland.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:24 PM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Two thoughts:

1. Affleck was the bomb in Phantoms, yo!

2. I wonder if he first heard about this through the Jack Kirby angle. I'm a comics-obsessed nerdlinger, and that's where I learned the story. Affleck knows 'em and likes 'em, so it's a possibility.
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 12:31 PM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Affleck is aces in Hollywoodland.

I'd forgotten about that movie, but yes, shakespeherian, he was good in that. Now that he's getting to be middle aged, it'd be interesting to see him not try to be a leading man and instead take on some more character-actor type parts. Those sorts of smaller roles might be a better fit with the time demands of directing anyway.
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 12:33 PM on October 12, 2012


But I want to see a film adaptation of Lord of Light! It's probably Zelazny's best novel length work!
posted by Justinian at 1:21 PM on October 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


I still have visceral memory of all the signs that had their letters changed to messages like MERCI CANADA. So there was definitely a widespread appreciation of their role at the time of the incident.

Yep. I was lucky enough to be on a road trip in the Southwest the week that this story came out. Having British Columbia plates on the van was what I imagine it might be like being a celebrity. We'd go to gas up, and the gas-station owner would refuse our money. Or we'd be sitting in the campground at the table, and total strangers who just hapened to go by would then show up with cases of beer, or a bunch of T-bone steaks. It got so that we could only go out to bars or restaurants every other night; because once people found out that we were Canadians (basically, as soon as we ordered, after we corrected people on our "English" accents ) we'd get so plastered on free drinks that we'd lose the whole following day to vicious hang-overs.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 1:50 PM on October 12, 2012 [10 favorites]


Ben Affleck's a pretty good director, he just needs to fire the casting director he uses who keeps casting Ben Affleck in his movies.
posted by brand-gnu at 2:00 PM on October 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


> "But I want to see a film adaptation of Lord of Light! It's probably Zelazny's best novel length work!"

Tricky to film, though, even if you ditch the extended flashback and put it in chronological order.

The next secret mission might have an easier time of it if they pretend to film Doorways in the Sand instead.
posted by kyrademon at 2:07 PM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


But I want to see a film adaptation of Lord of Light! It's probably Zelazny's best novel length work!

Yes, absolutely! I'm not really a fan of Zelazney, but the novel 'Lord of Light' is a masterpiece. It's an excellent action-adventure/philosophy epic, where the charming rebel prince overthrows the decadent mind-control empire with the help of some odd aliens, and with an awesome big battle scene at the end! It's like Sci-Fi/Bollywood in style (except with Siddhartha as the hero, which is not exactly Bollywood). These were my thoughts when I read the Wired article a few years ago. It would make a swell movie.

I would totally recommend this book, if you like this sort of thing.

(Also, I requested a flute solo of 'The Blue Danube Waltz' for our wedding reception).
posted by ovvl at 2:40 PM on October 12, 2012


Off to the theater!
posted by Jahaza at 3:01 PM on October 12, 2012


Paging quin, you can now pay money to see that movie. :)
posted by fireoyster at 3:15 PM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, man, a Doorways in the Sand movie would be amazing.
posted by Earthtopus at 6:53 PM on October 12, 2012


I still have visceral memory of all the signs that had their letters changed to messages like MERCI CANADA. So there was definitely a widespread appreciation of their role at the time of the incident.

Yep. I was lucky enough to be on a road trip in the Southwest the week that this story came out. Having British Columbia plates on the van was what I imagine it might be like being a celebrity.


One more anecdata point: I've been personally thanked, more than once, for Canada's role in freeing those hostages. Most memorably when I was working on the community newspaper at an American military base in Germany. In 1994. I'm pretty sure the woman who thanked me then had no other discrete impression of what Canada was or represented. She was an occasional contributor, came by the office every couple weeks. It was her third visit or so since I'd arrived as a summer intern. She was on her way out of the editor's office, came over to my desk with real intent and said, "I just want to say I'm so thankful for what your country did for the hostages in Iran."

There are countless worse ways to be known.
posted by gompa at 10:11 PM on October 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Brand-gnu hit it on the nose. It's a nice movie. Ben Affleck's performance is good, but he's no Gary Oldman as George Smiley.

The writing is good (sometimes a little too good for realism).

Stick around for the credits.
posted by Jahaza at 10:44 PM on October 12, 2012




I had not caught the Zelazny connection. I now need to see this movie.
posted by immlass at 9:36 AM on October 13, 2012




We just got home from seeing this and oh god it was so good! Cold War-era spy-ish thrillers are kind of my jam, though.

I didn't mind Affleck's performance at all. There are a lot of big name actors that, when watching them, it's like, look, acting! Not so here at all. Maybe it's the beard.
posted by troika at 7:31 PM on October 14, 2012


Any Kirby?
posted by Artw at 7:41 PM on October 14, 2012


There is a Jack Kirby/storyboards role in the movie, though it's a small part, if that's what you're asking.
posted by troika at 7:52 PM on October 14, 2012


/will totally see a movie just for this.
posted by Artw at 7:56 PM on October 14, 2012


Shouldn't a Canadian film titled Argo be about the CFL?
Naut.
posted by e1c at 11:44 AM on October 15, 2012




OMFG.

The origin of the title Argo stemmed from "a profane 'knock-knock' joke": Argo who? Argo fuck yourself.

The Canadians discovered that one of the CIA's forged Iranian visas had been mistakenly issued in the future

The CIA's maps also showed the incorrect location of the Canadian Embassy,

One "ironic coda" from the CIA account: "By the time Studio Six folded several weeks after the rescue, we had received 26 scripts.… One was from Steven Spielberg."

posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 9:40 PM on October 19, 2012


Just got back from watching this. Very good movie and I thought Affleck did a good job.
posted by arcticseal at 9:58 PM on October 19, 2012


The American Conservative: What Argo Gets Right
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:33 PM on October 22, 2012


Just saw it last night, was really pretty amazed at how well directed it was. I was impressed at how little "America, fuck yeah!" stuff there was, they pointed out that the US basically caused the whole environment that let to the revolution and then was totally surprised by it when it happened.

I liked how it felt quite a bit like a movie that was made in 1979 down to the '70s era Warner logo at the beginning. Weird to see events that I remember happening in real time presented as historical though, must be getting old.
posted by octothorpe at 6:49 AM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ben Affleck directs himself better than every other director he's worked for.
posted by crossoverman at 1:41 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


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