A video of Carter speaking those very words opens Argo’s trailer which is replete with sinister music, angry bearded mobs, clenched fists pumping the air, sounds of gunfire, glaring portraits of Ayatollah Khomeini and plenty of hand-wringing, hapless, innocent Americans and the concerned, humanitarian heroes of Tinsel Town and the Central Intelligence Agency who saved them.
The mastermind behind the clandestine mission featured in the film is CIA operative Tony Mendez, portrayed by Affleck himself. In a short clip of the movie shown on The Daily Show, Mendez is described as an “exfil[tration] spec[ialist]” who “got a lot of the Shah’s people out after the fall.” What a hero.
The issue is not that hostage-taking is legitimate or moral or that amazing true stories shouldn’t be made into big budget movies. It’s not and they should be. The issue here is context. Without it, Manichean views of the world – with good guys and bad guys neatly identified – continue to prevail. At a time of especially heightened tension between Iran, the United States, and now Canada, films like Argo – with its narrative of American victimhood and Middle Eastern rage – certainly do no favors.
I have not seen this film. I could be wrong about all this. Argo may very well include a nuanced and sophisticated exploration of the causes behind the Iranian Revolution and U.S. government decisions leading up to the hostage crisis, but then again, it might not. *