Argo (2012 film)

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First Lady Michelle Obama announces theBest Picture Oscar to Argo live from the Diplomatic Room of the White House, Feb. 24, 2013.

Lecturas relacionadas:

En blog OMCIM Los medios vistos por los medios. Argo: la narrativa sobre Irán y la coyuntura histórica de Mauricio Meschoulam con comentario de Regina Santiago.


Theatrical release poster
Directed by Ben Affleck
Produced by Grant Heslov
Ben Affleck
George Clooney
Screenplay by Chris Terrio
Based on The Master of Disguise by
Antonio J. Mendez
The Great Escape by
Joshuah Bearman
Starring Ben Affleck
Bryan Cranston
Alan Arkin
John Goodman
Music by Alexandre Desplat
Cinematography Rodrigo Prieto
Editing by William Goldenberg
Studio GK Films
Smokehouse Pictures
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date(s)
  • August 31, 2012(Telluride Film Festival)
  • October 12, 2012(United States)
Running time 120 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English & Persian
Budget $44.5 million[2]
Box office $206,753,502[2]

Argo is a 2012 American fictionalized thriller film directed by Ben Affleck. This dramatization is adapted from the book The Master of Disguise by CIA operative Tony Mendez, and Joshuah Berman’s 2007 Wired article “The Great Escape” about the “Canadian Caper“,[3] in which Mendez led the rescue of six U.S. diplomats from TehranIran, during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis.[4]

The film stars Affleck as Mendez with Bryan CranstonAlan Arkin, and John Goodman, and was released in North America to critical and commercial success on October 12, 2012. The film was produced by Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck, and George Clooney. The story of this rescue was also told in the 1981 television movie Escape from Iran: The Canadian Caper, directed by Lamont Johnson.[5][6]

Argo received seven nominations for the 85th Academy Awards and won three, for Best Film Editing,[7] Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Picture, the first time since 1989’s Driving Miss Daisy where the Best Picture winner was not nominated for Best Director. The film also earned five Golden Globe nominations, winning Best Picture – Drama and Best Director, while being nominated for Best Supporting Actor for Arkin. It won the award for the Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture at the 19th Screen Actors Guild Awards with Alan Arkin being nominated for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role. It also won Best Film, Best Editing, and Best Director (for Affleck) at the 66th British Academy Film Awards.


Militants storm the United States embassy in Tehran on November 4, 1979, in retaliation for CIA involvements in Iran. More than 50 of the embassy staff are taken as hostages, but six escape and hide in the home of the Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor (Victor Garber). With the escapees’ situation kept secret, the US State Department begins to explore options for “exfiltrating” them from Iran. Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck), a CIA exfiltration specialist brought in for consultation, criticizes the proposals. He too is at a loss for an alternative until, inspired by watching Battle for the Planet of the Apes on the phone with his son, he plans to create a cover story that the escapees are Canadian filmmakers, scouting “exotic” locations in Iran for a similar science-fiction film.

Mendez and his supervisor Jack O’Donnell (Bryan Cranston) contact John Chambers (John Goodman), a Hollywood make-up artist who has previously crafted disguises for the CIA. Chambers puts them in touch with film producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin). Together they set up a phony film studio, publicize their plans, and successfully establish the pretense of developing Argo, a “science fantasy” in the style of Star Wars, to lend credibility to the cover story. Meanwhile, the escapees grow frantic inside the ambassador’s residence. The revolutionaries reassemble embassy papers shredded before the takeover and learn that some personnel have escaped.

Posing as a producer for Argo, Mendez enters Iran and links up with the six escapees. He provides them with Canadian passports and fake identities to prepare them to get through security at the airport. Although afraid to trust Mendez’s scheme, they reluctantly go along with it, knowing that he is risking his own life too. A “scouting” visit to the bazaar to maintain their cover story takes a bad turn, but their Iranian culture contact gets them away from the hostile crowd.

Mendez is told that the operation has been cancelled to avoid conflicting with a planned military rescue of the hostages. He pushes ahead, forcing O’Donnell to hastily re-obtain authorization for the mission to get tickets on a Swissair flight. Tension rises at the airport, where the escapees’ flight reservations are confirmed at the last minute, and a guard’s call to the supposed studio in Hollywood is answered at the last second. The group boards the plane just as the Iranian guards uncover the ruse and try to stop their plane from getting off the runway, but they are too late, as Mendez and the six successfully leave Iran.

To protect the hostages remaining in Tehran from retaliation, all US involvement in the rescue is suppressed, giving full credit to the Canadian government and its ambassador (who left Iran with his wife under their own credentials as the operation was underway; their Iranian housekeeper, who had known about the Americans and lied to the revolutionaries to protect them, escaped to Iraq). Mendez is awarded the Intelligence Star, but due to the classified nature of the mission, he would not be able to keep the medal until the details were made public in 1997. All the hostages were freed on January 20, 1981. The film ends with President Carter’s speech about the Crisis and the Canadian Caper.


Actor, producer and director Ben Affleck.

Affleck cast Goodman, Parks and Bishé after seeing them in Red State.



Mendez meets an agent at Istanbul’sHagia Sophia before going to Iran.

Argo is based on the Canadian Caper that took place during the Iran hostage crisis in 1979 and 1980. Chris Terrio wrote the screenplay based on Joshuah Bearman’s 2007 article in Wired: “How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans from Tehran”.[3] The article was written after the records were declassified.

In 2007, the producers George ClooneyGrant Heslov and David Klawans set up a project based on the article. Affleck’s participation was announced in February 2011.[8] The following June, Alan Arkin was the first person cast in the film.[9] After the rest of the roles were cast, filming began in Los Angeles[10] in August 2011. Additional filming took place in McLean, VirginiaWashington, D.C., and Istanbul.[11]

As a historical piece, the film made use of archival news footage from ABCCBS and NBC; and included popular songs from the era such as “Little T&A” by The Rolling Stones, “Sultans of Swing” by Dire Straits, “Dance the Night Away” by Van Halen and “When the Levee Breaks” by Led Zeppelin.[12] For its part, Warner Bros. used its 1972–1984 title featuring the “Big W” logo designed by Saul Bass forWarner Communications to open the film and painted on its studio lot’s famed water tower the logo of The Burbank Studios (the facility’s name during the 1970s and 1980s when Warner shared it withColumbia Pictures).[13]

Historical (in)accuracy

The Shah and the coup

During the opening prologue, the narrator claims that Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was installed by the 1953 Iranian coup d’état. This is a half-truth; Pahlavi had been shah since 1941, but the coup gave him ultimate authority, whereas, previously, Iran had been a constitutional monarchy wherein Pahlavi followed the advice of Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh.

The narrator says Mossadegh was “overwhelmingly elected as prime minister” by the Iranian people. In truth, he was technically elected prime minister by the Iranian parliament on the base of the elections of 1950, after his predecessor, Haj Ali Razmara, was assassinated. Iranian prime ministers were chosen by parliament members, who were elected by popular vote, as in many parliamentary governments.[14]

Canadian versus CIA roles

After the film was previewed at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2012,[15] some critics said that it unfairly glorified the role of the CIA and minimized the role of the Canadian government (particularly that of Ambassador Taylor) in the extraction operation. Maclean’s asserted that “the movie rewrites history at Canada’s expense, making Hollywood and the CIA the saga’s heroic saviours while Taylor is demoted to a kindly concierge.”[16] The postscript text said that the CIA let Taylor take the credit for political purposes, which some critics thought implied that he did not deserve the accolades he received.[17] In response to this criticism, Affleck changed the postscript text to read: “The involvement of the CIA complemented efforts of the Canadian embassy to free the six held in Tehran. To this day the story stands as an enduring model of international co-operation between governments.”[18] The Toronto Star complained, “Even that hardly does Canada justice.”[19]

In a CNN interview, President Carter addressed the controversy by stating: “90% of the contributions to the ideas and the consummation of the plan was Canadian. And the movie gives almost full credit to the American CIA. And with that exception, the movie is very good. But Ben Affleck’s character in the film was… only in Tehran a day and a half. And the main hero, in my opinion, was Ken Taylor, who was the Canadian ambassador who orchestrated the entire process.”[20] Taylor himself noted that, “In reality, Canada was responsible for the six and the CIA was a junior partner. But I realize this is a movie and you have to keep the audience on the edge of their seats.”[18] In the film, Taylor is also shown threatening to close the Canadian embassy in the movie; in reality, this did not happen and the Canadians never considered abandoning the six Americans who had taken refuge under Canadian protection.[18]

Affleck asserted: “Because we say it’s based on a true story, rather than this is a true story, we’re allowed to take some dramatic license. There’s a spirit of truth” and that “the kinds of things that are really important to be true are—for example, the relationship between the U.S. and Canada. The U.S. stood up collectively as a nation and said, ‘We like you, we appreciate you, we respect you, and we’re in your debt.’… There were folks who didn’t want to stick their necks out and the Canadians did. They said, ‘We’ll risk our diplomatic standing, our lives, by harbouring six Americans because it’s the right thing to do.’ Because of that, their lives were saved.”[16]

British and New Zealand roles

Upon its wide release in October 2012, the film was criticized for its claim that the New Zealand and British diplomats had turned away the American refugees in Tehran. Diplomats from New Zealand had proved quite helpful; one drove the Americans to the airport.[21] The British hosted the Americans initially, but the location was not safe and all considered the Canadian ambassador’s residence to be the better location. British diplomats also assisted other Americans beyond the six.[22] Bob Anders, the U.S. consular agent played in the film by Tate Donovan, said, “They put their lives on the line for us. We were all at risk. I hope no one in Britain will be offended by what’s said in the film. The British were good to us and we’re forever grateful.”[23]

Sir John Graham, the then-British ambassador to Iran, said, “My immediate reaction on hearing about this was one of outrage. I have since simmered down, but am still very distressed that the film-makers should have got it so wrong. My concern is that the inaccurate account should not enter the mythology of the events in Tehran in November 1979.” The then-British chargé d’affaires in Tehran said that, had the Americans been discovered in the British embassy, “I can assure you we’d all have been for the high jump [i.e., in trouble].”[23] Martin Williams, secretary to Sir John Graham in Iran at the time, was the one who found the Americans and sheltered them in his own house at first. The sequence in the film when a housekeeper confronts a truckload of Iranian revolutionary at the Canadian ambassadors home bears a striking resemblance to Mr Williams’ own story. He has told how a brave guard, Iskander Khan, confronted heavily-armed revolutionary guards and convinced them that no-one was in when they tried to search Williams’ house during a blackout. Mr Williams said “They went away. We and the Americans had a very lucky escape.” The fugitives later moved to the home of the Canadian ambassador and his No2.[24]

Affleck is quoted as saying to The Sunday Telegraph: “I struggled with this long and hard, because it casts Britain and New Zealand in a way that is not totally fair. But I was setting up a situation where you needed to get a sense that these six people had nowhere else to go. It does not mean to diminish anyone.”[23]

Imminent danger to the group

In the film, the diplomats face suspicious glances from Iranians whenever they go out in public, and appear close to being caught at many steps along the way to their freedom. In reality, the diplomats never appeared to be in imminent danger:

  • In the film, while pretending to scout for filming locations at a bazaar, the crew face suspicious glances, and are accosted by a few vendors, who suspect them of being American. In reality, this scouting trip never happened.[16][18][25]
  • In the film, the crew again encounters suspicion while purchasing plane tickets to Zurich; in reality Taylor’s wife bought three sets of plane tickets from three different airlines ahead of time, without any issues.[16][18]
  • The film depicts a dramatic last-minute cancellation of the mission by the Carter administration and a bureaucratic crisis in which Mendez declares he will proceed with the mission. Carter delayed authorization by only 30 minutes, and that was before Mendez had left Europe for Iran.[26]
  • In the film, there is again a tense situation when the crew tries to board the plane, and their identities are nearly discovered. In reality, there was no confrontation with security officials at the departure gate.[27][26]
  • In the film, before the plane takes off, gun-toting Iranian guards try to stop the plane in a dramatic chase sequence; in reality, there was no runway chase at the airport.[28] As Mark Lijek described it, “Fortunately for us, there were very few Revolutionary Guards about. It’s why we turned up for a flight at 5.30 in the morning; even they weren’t zealous enough to be there that early. The truth is the immigration officers barely looked at us and we were processed out in the regular way. We got on the flight to Zurich and then we were taken to the US ambassador’s residence in Berne. It was that straightforward.”[25]

Other historical inaccuracies

The film contains other historical inaccuracies:

  • “It’s not true we could never go outside. John Sheardown’s house had an interior courtyard with a garden and we could walk there freely,” Mark Lijek says.[25]
  • The screenplay has the escapees—Mark and Cora Lijek, Bob Anders, Lee Schatz and Joe and Kathy Stafford—settling down to enforced cohabitation at the residence of the Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor. In reality, after several nights—including one spent in the UK residential compound—the group was split between the Taylor house and the home of another Canadian official, John Sheardown.[25][29]
  • The major role of producer Lester Siegel, played by Alan Arkin, is fictional.[30]
  • In the depiction of a frantic effort at CIA headquarters to get Carter to re-authorize the mission so that previously purchased airline tickets would still be valid, a CIA officer is portrayed as getting the White House telephone operator to connect him to Chief of Staff Hamilton Jordan by impersonating a representative of the school attended by Jordan’s children. In reality, Jordan was unmarried and had no children at the time.[31]
  • In real life, CIA officer Antonio Mendez has partial Mexican ancestry, leading some critics to argue that Ben Affleck should have cast a Hispanic actor, and not himself, in the role.[32]
  • The Hollywood sign is shown dilapidated as it had been in the past, but it had actually been repaired in 1978, prior to the events described in the film.[33]

Release and reception

Critical response

Argo was widely acclaimed by critics. Rotten Tomatoes reported that 96% of critics gave the film positive reviews based on 246 reviews, with an average score of 8.4 out of 10. Its consensus reads: “Tense, exciting and often darkly comic, Argo recreates a historical event with vivid attention to detail and finely wrought characters.”[34] At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film has received an average score of 86, considered to be “universal acclaim”, based on 45 reviews.[35] Naming Argo one of the best 11 films of 2012, critic Stephen Holden ofThe New York Times wrote: “Ben Affleck’s seamless direction catapults him to the forefront of Hollywood filmmakers turning out thoughtful entertainment.”[36] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 4/4 stars, calling it “spellbinding” and “surprisingly funny”. Ebert chose it as his best film of the year.[37]

The Washington Times said it felt “like a movie from an earlier era — less frenetic, less showy, more focused on narrative than sensation” but that the script included “too many characters that he doesn’t quite develop.”[38]

The craft in this film is rare. It is so easy to manufacture a thriller from chases and gunfire, and so very hard to fine-tune it out of exquisite timing and a plot that’s so clear to us we wonder why it isn’t obvious to the Iranians. After all, who in their right mind would believe a space opera was being filmed in Iran during the hostage crisis?

—Roger Ebert, writing for the Chicago Sun-Times[37]

Literary critic Stanley Fish says that the film is a standard caper film in which “some improbable task has to be pulled off by a combination of ingenuity, training, deception and luck.” He goes on to describe the film’s structure: “(1) the presentation of the scheme to reluctant and unimaginative superiors, (2) the transformation of a ragtag bunch of ne’er-do-wells and wackos into a coherent, coordinated unit and (3) the carrying out of the task.” Although he thinks the film is good at building and sustaining suspense, he concludes,

This is one of those movies that depend on your not thinking much about it; for as soon as you reflect on what’s happening rather than being swept up in the narrative flow, there doesn’t seem much to it aside from the skill with which suspense is maintained despite the fact that you know in advance how it’s going to turn out. … Once the deed is successfully done, there’s really nothing much to say, and anything that is said seems contrived. That is the virtue of an entertainment like this; it doesn’t linger in the memory and provoke afterthoughts.[39]

Jian Ghomeshi, a Canadian writer and radio figure of Iranian descent, thought the film had a “deeply troubling portrayal of the Iranian people”. Ghomeshi asserted “among all the rave reviews, virtually no one in the mainstream media has called out [the] unbalanced depiction of an entire ethnic national group, and the broader implications of the portrait.” He also suggested that the timing of the film was poor, as American and Iranian political relations were at a low point.[40] A November 3, 2012 article in the Los Angeles Times claimed that the film had received very little attention in Tehran. The article referred to a review by Masoumeh Ebtekar, whose memoirs are the only Iranian narrative of the events.[41]

Despite the Iranian Government’s response, sources inside Iran have claimed that the movie has become massively popular, with bootleg copies becoming bestsellers with high prices and copies being sold “by the thousands”, making multiple times the sales of Academy Award winner A Separation, which was released almost a year before. Several theaters have been secretly showing the film, including one at Sharif University, with the participants giving a very positive response. Interpretations of the film’s popularity in Iran have varied, ranging from the fact that the movie portrays the excesses of the revolution and the hostage crisis, which had been long glorified in Iran to regular Iranians viewing it as a somber reminder of what caused the poor relations with America and the ensuing cost to Iran, decades after the embassy takeover. Other Iranians have claimed that the high DVD sales is a form of silent protest against the government’s ongoing hostility to relations with America.[42][43]

The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards except in the Director category and won three for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Achievement in Editing. Following the announcement of the nominations, Bradley Cooper, whose film, Silver Linings Playbook was nominated in several categories, said: “Ben Affleck got robbed.”[44] This opinion is shared by the ceremony’s host Seth MacFarlane[45] and Quentin Tarantino.[46]

Entertainment Weekly wrote about this controversy:

Standing in the Golden Globe pressroom with his directing trophy, Affleck acknowledged that it was frustrating not to get an Oscar nod when many felt he deserved one. But he’s keeping a sense of humor. “I mean, I also didn’t get the acting nomination,” he pointed out. “And no one’s saying I got snubbed there!”[47]

Box office

As of February 24, 2013, the film has earned an estimated $129,653,502 in the United States and Canada, and $77,100,000 in other countries, for a worldwide total of $206,753,502.[2]

Home media

The film was released in North America on February 19, 2013 on DVDBlu-ray and with an UltraViolet digital copy .[48]


List of awards and nominations
Award Category Nominee Result
85th Academy Awards[49] Best Picture Grant HeslovBen Affleck and George Clooney Won
Best Supporting Actor Alan Arkin Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Chris Terrio Won
Best Film Editing William Goldenberg Won
Best Sound Editing Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn Nominated
Best Sound Mixing John ReitzGregg Rudloff and Jose Antonio Garcia Nominated
Best Original Score Alexandre Desplat Nominated
AFI Awards Movies of the Year Ben Affleck, George Clooney, and Grant Heslov Won
2nd AACTA International Awards[50] Best Film – International Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck and George Clooney Nominated
Best Direction – International Ben Affleck Nominated
Best Screenplay – International Chris Terrio Nominated
British Academy Film Awards[51] Best Film Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck, George Clooney Won
Best Director Ben Affleck Won
Best Adapted Screenplay Chris Terrio Nominated
Best Actor in a Leading Role Ben Affleck Nominated
Best Actor in a Supporting Role Alan Arkin Nominated
Best Original Music Alexandre Desplat Nominated
Best Editing William Goldenberg Won
César Award Best Foreign Film Ben Affleck Won
Critics Choice Awards Best Picture Won
Best Supporting Actor Alan Arkin Nominated
Best Acting Ensemble Nominated
Best Director Ben Affleck Won
Best Adapted Screenplay Chris Terrio Nominated
Best Editing William Goldenberg Nominated
Best Score Alexandre Desplat Nominated
Detroit Film Critics Society Best Picture Nominated
Best Director Ben Affleck Nominated
Best Ensemble Nominated
70th Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture – Drama Won
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role Alan Arkin Nominated
Best Director – Motion Picture Ben Affleck Won
Best Screenplay – Motion Picture Chris Terrio Nominated
Best Original Score – Motion Picture Alexandre Desplat Nominated
International Film Music Critics Association Awards Film Composer of the Year Alexandre Desplat, also for Moonrise KingdomRise of the GuardiansRust and Bone and Zero Dark Thirty Nominated
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Best Screenplay Chris Terrio Won
National Board of Review Awards 2012 Top 10 Films Ben AffleckGeorge Clooney and Grant Heslov Won
Special Achievement in Filmmaking Ben Affleck Won
Spotlight Award John Goodman, also for FlightParaNorman and Trouble with the Curve Won
Nevada Film Critics Society Best Picture Won
Best Director Ben Affleck
Tied with Kathryn Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty
New York Film Critics Online Best Ensemble Cast Won
Phoenix Film Critics Society Top Ten Films Won
Best Director Ben Affleck Nominated
Best Ensemble Acting Nominated
Best Screenplay Adaptation Won
Best Film Editing Won
Roger Ebert Best Picture of the Year Won
Directors Guild of America Best Director Ben Affleck Won
Producers Guild of America Best Picture Ben AffleckGeorge Clooney and Grant Heslov Won
Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role Alan Arkin Nominated
Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Cast Won
San Diego Film Critics Society Best Film Won
Best Director Ben Affleck Won
Best Supporting Actor Alan Arkin Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Chris Terrio Won
Best Editing William Goldenberg Won
Best Production Design Sharon Seymour Nominated
Best Score Alexandre Desplat Nominated
Best Ensemble Performance Nominated
Satellite Awards Motion Picture Nominated
Best Director Ben Affleck Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Chris Terrio Nominated
Best Original Score Alexandre Desplat Won
St. Louis Film Critics Best Film Won
Best Director Ben Affleck Won
Best Supporting Actor Alan Arkin Nominated
John Goodman Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Nominated
Washington D. C. Area Film Critics Association Best Film Nominated
Best Director Ben Affleck Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Alan Arkin Nominated
Best Acting Ensemble Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Nominated
Writers Guild of America Best Adapted Screenplay Chris Terrio Won


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