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‘Argo’ an entertaining historical-political thriller

The new Hollywood movie “Argo” has a fascinating true story to tell, a story that had been classified for decades.

When militants stormed the American Embassy in Iran in 1979, taking 52 of our citizens hostage, six others managed to escape the compound, without being detected by the Iranians.

Those six managed to hide out in the home of the Canadian ambassador in Tehran without anyone in Iran knowing. It was the job of the Canadian government and the CIA to figure out a way to sneak them out of the country at a time when hatred for Americans there was at an all-time high.

“Argo” tells the hard-to-believe story of how that was done. The cockamamie plan was to pass the six off as a Canadian film crew who were scouting locations for a Star-Wars rip-off set in the Middle East called “Argo.” Ben Affleck, who also directed this film, plays the CIA covert operator Tony Mendez who comes up with the crazy idea.

After a couple of humorous scenes in which Affleck has to convince a skeptical film producer, and an even more skeptical State Department, he eventually secretly meets with the six hiding Americans. He gives them all cover stories, grills them on how well they know their Canadian back stories, and finally takes them on a heart-stopping trip to the airport.

This is a high-stakes political thriller that’s very slickly directed by Affleck. He does a great job balancing the more comical aspects of the Hollywood studio guys back in the states with the nerve-wracking tension of the stir-crazy hostages in Iran. And he milks the tension of the climactic escape attempt like the pro he’s becoming after directing three good films in a row (“Gone Baby Gone” and “The Town.”)

My one quibble with “Argo” is that’s it’s a tad too slick for its own good. The story as it is, is plenty dramatic and yet Affleck seems to feel he needs to goose the facts with a few too many classic Hollywood tricks, tricks so familiar that they ring false. Especially at the end. The myriad of close calls end up seeming a little too contrived.

That being said, I suspect most people will be so caught up in the excitement, that a little Tinseltown contrivance will seem a small price to pay for an entertaining historical and political thriller.

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