In grade school at the time of the infamous American hostage crisis in Iran, my earliest memory of this unfortunate political event in the year 1979 is that of first seeing it on the cover of Time magazine. Back in the day when our choices for TV channels in India was limited to the one state-run channel called Doordarshan, the source for world-news in our house came primarily from newspapers and magazines, thanks to my father who subscribed to Time magazine, Reader’s Digest, National Geographic, the Illustrated Weekly, and the Times of India.
It was therefore quite fascinating to see a movie that focused on this event, now more than thirty years later. Besides, there isn’t a Ben Affleck movie that I wouldn’t see anyway!
This is a movie that is a most suspenseful drama about the unusual rescue of six Americans during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. While it does not focus on the 52 men and women who were held hostage for 444 days, this is a side-story of six Americans who fled the embassy undetected. While radical Iranian revolutionary forces were overrunning the embassy, it is these six who successfully managed to flee the embassy but soon became trapped within the country with no obvious way out. Staying hidden within the Canadian ambassador’s house, they wait while the C.I.A., the State Department, and the President of the United States struggle to find a way to bring them home undetected.
The details in the direction of the script and the story captures a lot of the small details of the period: the cigarettes, the sideburns, the aviator glasses, the long wide collars, the bulky black-and-white TV screens, the cigarettes, Walter Cronkite, Ted Koppel and David Brinkley as youthful-looking news anchors and, of course, the cigarettes. Affleck is understated in his role as the executor of the somewhat unlikely but still believable plan of posing as a movie producer with his crew of the six Canadians scouting for a location for his next sci-fi movie.
There’s plenty of suspense in the planning and execution of the plan to ferry them out on a Swiss Air flight out of Tehran, but it is not just Affleck who is the hero of the operation. There are several: the Canadian Ambassador, played with conviction by the very talented Victor Garber; the Iranian maid in their house; the CIA director who makes things happen at the very last minute, and then of course, the heroes within each of the six Americans who learn to trust Affleck’s Tony Mendez.
Mr. Affleck has done well to add this to his impressive repertoire of acting and directing, and we can hope that in the future there’s plenty more where that came from.