Some sense of—dare I say—ambiguity may have given the film a deeper resonance. The Iranians are almost all raging, ready-to-blow hotheads, while the Americans are mostly trying to navigate, or, in some cases, circumvent obstacles to the mission. For the film’s finale, Affleck cross-cuts between the hostages at the airport and the efforts of Iranian officials who have figured out the IDs of the missing hostages and are moving to detain them. It’s hard to flub such material, but the treatment of the Iranian villains is so amped up in these scenes that it pushes the film into broad caricature and stereotype.

The Iranian hostage crisis was resolved as one president’s term ended and his successor prepared to take the oath of office. Argo arrives just as America prepares to go to the ballot box in another presidential election, but it has little to say about our government’s relationship with the Middle East, or about the use/misuse of intelligence. It is, instead, a straightforward retelling of a heroic rescue mission, pulled off against all odds. It’s a story that deserves to be widely seen, but that doesn’t make Argo unimpeachable.

Even though it’s far from perfect, Argo counts as another feather in Affleck’s directing cap, not quite up to the level of his earlier directing work on The Town or Gone Baby Gone, but sure to find a receptive, appreciative audience. Unabashedly patriotic portrayals of government servants are rare, and Argo is an intelligent film about intelligence agents, minus the sanctimony and political score-settling of other recent films dealing with a similar subject, like Fair Game. That makes Argo, in the middle of an endless political season, refreshingly unpolitical. And that may be the biggest surprise the film has to offer.


  • Language/Profanity: “Go--ammit”; several uses of the “f”-word; crude reference to male sex organ; numerous uses of foul language; a man extends a middle finger
  • Alcohol/Smoking/Drugs: Several scenes of smoking and drinking
  • Sex/Nudity: Scantily clad actresses; it’s said that before the Iranian revolution, 40% of its theaters showed pornography
  • Violence/Crime: An analogy to a CIA operation being “like abortions—you don’t want to need one, but when you do, you don’t do it yourself”; a corpse hangs from a crane; a man is shot; an embassy is overrun; riots; a mock firing-squad execution
  • Marriage: Mendez says he and his wife are taking time off from their marriage
  • Religion: Violent religious protests; an Iranian man tells a woman, “Those who sit silently have sinned”

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Publication date: October 12, 2012