Fact is stranger than fictionBy Nestor U. Torre
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Actor and filmmaker Ben Affleck’s current film, “Argo,” prove once again that fact can be stranger than fiction. It recalls the “impossible” rescue of six Americans from Iran by a cucumber-cool specialist with ice water flowing through his veins, just before their secret hiding place is raided by the Ayatollah’s storm troopers.
For many months on end, the Iranians didn’t even suspect that the American diplomatic personnel were hiding in the Canadian embassy in Tehran, pretending to be visiting friends and compatriots of the ambassador, who risked his own family’s safety to give them temporary safe harbor.
Realizing that their secret would soon be discovered, the CIA had floated all sorts of wild schemes to spirit the Americans away before that happened, but none of them panned out—until Affleck’s character thought up the “crazy” plot to make them pretend to be production staffers of a fictive Canadian sci-fi flick scouting for appropriate locations in Iran. It was, even Affleck agreed, a very bad idea, but it was the only ruse they could think up that had any chance at all of succeeding.
Thus, in the days and weeks that followed, Affleck and his Hollywood “advisers” scrounge around for a script that would never be filmed by a production company that didn’t really exist! To give the project more credence, they even held a script reading in a posh hotel, which was duly reported on by the Hollywood press—“proof” positive that the movie was ready to be shot!
Affleck was an expert at getting people out of very tight situations, but this particular assignment tested his resolve and creativity to the limit. Aside from the delicate machinations involved, he got flak even from the Americans he was preparing to spirit out of Iran.
Some of them found his scheme too crazy, and feared that it would result in their being found out and gunned down at the airport. Despite these unexpected complications, however, the long-dreamed-of escape hatch soon presented itself, and the fleeing Americans jumped into it, come what may.
Up to this point, the film is scrupulous about keeping its storytelling real. However, the “requirements” of “thriller” filmmaking eventually pressure the production into tweaking its melodramatic element too much for effect, to make sure that, up to the last second before the plane flies its precious human cargo off to freedom, viewers aren’t sure that they will really make it out alive.
Every possible delay and impediment is employed to keep us on tenterhooks, sometimes ignoring or temporarily suspending logic. One instance of this is the Iranian secret police’s suddenly astute ability to piece together shredded photos of the six would-be escapees only minutes or even seconds before they make good their flight to freedom!
Other implausible abridgements of time and logic conspire to make this real film’s finale as iffy as the fictive sci-fi movie-that-never-was in Affleck’s stupendous scheme.
Well, one implausibly thrilling finale does not a bad film make. We can enjoy “Argo” for its many other elements that do work swimmingly well!
Recent Stories:Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.