Political Thriller Comes to Sunrise
The political thriller “Argo” opens Thursday evening, Dec. 13, at the Sunrise Theater in Southern Pines.
More than just a thriller about the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis, the film “feels like a window on events that led to the world we live in now,” said Bob Mondello, of National Public Radio.
The crisis began when revolutionaries overran the United States Embassy in Tehran and took hostages, including 52 men and women who were held for 444 days.
During the chaos, six Americans escaped into the streets undetected and took refuge in the home of the Canadian ambassador. Their existence had to remain a secret to protect Canada’s diplomatic status. The Central Intelligence Agency, the State Department and the president struggled to find a way to bring them home.
Antonio J. Mendez, a CIA officer specializing in disguises, was chosen to help free the six State Department employees stranded in Iran. He devised a plan to sneak into Iran and give the sequestered Americans new identities as filmmakers scouting locations for a science fiction film called “Argo.”
Included in the plan were commissioning a screen play and paying for storyboards. Training and roles as Hollywood professionals were prepared for each American on the film’s crew. Then, the Americans would be taken out on a commercial flight from Tehran’s international airport.
From the CIA, Mendez flew to Los Angeles to enlist Hollywood’s help. There, he brought in an old friend and makeup artist, John Chambers (John Goodman).
Alan Arkin plays the role of the film’s producer, Lester Siegel, a Hollywood old-timer with an acidulous personality.
The CIA rescue mission remained secret for years until President Bill Clinton declassified the factual details in 1997. Before that, the scheme was attributed solely to the Canadian government.
Ben Affleck has directed the real “Argo” from a screenplay by Chris Torrio and cast himself in the pivotal role of Tony Mendez. The screenplay is based on Mendez’ book, “The Master of Disguise,” and a 2007 Wired magazine article, “The Great Escape,” by journalist Joshua Bearman.
Affleck embellishes the official story, but mostly remains close to the official record. A closing credits side-by-side montage of the real hostages and the actors shows Affleck’s efforts to re-create the real-life places and people of “Argo.”
“Argo” has been extensively praised by film critics. The film is “serious and substantive, an ingenuously written and executed drama fashioned from a fascinating, little-known chapter of recent history. It also happens to be extremely funny, crafty and enormously entertaining,” wrote Ann Hornaday in The Washington Post.
In The Wall Street Journal, Joe Morgenstern promised “frequent spasms of suspense that grow almost unbearable.”
“Argo” plays from Thursday, Dec. 13, through Monday, Dec. 17, at 7:30 p.m. There will not be matinee showings for this film. It runs 120 minutes and is rated R for language and some violence.
The historic, nonprofit Sunrise Theater is located in downtown Southern Pines, at 250 NW Broad St.
Tickets are $7 and are available only at the box office prior to shows. Refreshments are available, include fresh popcorn with real butter, soft drinks, beer and wine.
Visit the website www.sunrisetheater.com or call (910) 692-8501 for more information about the theater and a complete calendar of events.
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