Scott Brinton

'Argo' finds hope in a hopeless age


“The crises in Iran and Afghanistan have dramatized a very important lesson: Our excessive dependence on foreign oil is a clear and present danger to our nation’s security. The need has never been more urgent. At long last, we must have a clear, comprehensive energy policy.”

Those words hold as true today as they did when President Jimmy Carter uttered them in his 1980 State of the Union address, delivered three months after Islamic revolutionary forces scaled the wall of the U.S. embassy in Tehran on Nov. 4, 1979, seizing 52 Americans, whom they held hostage and psychologically tortured for 444 days.

I remember little of that dark period. I was only 12 and in middle school at the time. But Ben Affleck’s “Argo,” about a little-known footnote in the Iranian hostage crisis, brought faded memories of that time rushing back when I saw it last Saturday. Flashing through my mind were images of blindfolded Americans, looking scared as they were paraded before TV cameras by their captors. The U.S., a superpower with the world’s deadliest weapons arsenal, was rendered helpless by an angry mob. How could this be? we wondered in shock and disbelief.

“Argo,” which won the Academy Award for best picture on Feb. 24, appeals to us, in large part, because it is a feel-good film about an era in our country’s history when there was little to celebrate. The New York Times’s review of “Argo,” began with the headline, “Outwitting the Ayatollah with Hollywood’s Help.” As you might imagine, the film received a glowing review.

For those who have not seen “Argo” –– which you should -– the plot goes like this: Six Americans managed to escape the mob that invaded the U.S. embassy and made their way to the Canadian embassy, where they were granted asylum. They could not remain in Iran indefinitely, however, as the Canadians planned to close their embassy, lest the Iranian government learn that the Americans were harbored there. They –– and the Canadian ambassador and his wife –– had to get out or likely be branded spies and put to death by hanging or firing squad. Leaving Tehran, among the most heavily guarded cities on the planet, was a seemingly impossible mission, however.

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