It is reflective of American liberalism that Ben Affleck, who is considered to the left of the Democratic Party and who is supposed to have been critical of US foreign policies in the Middle East, is behind the movie Argo. The movie received wide publicity and acclaim and has served to energize American national pride. That is what patriotic movies are supposed to do.
But if you think about it, this movie is based on a simple premise that does not require a complicated or sophisticated plot: basically, as CIA agents were hiding in the Canadian embassy, an American traveled to Iran with fake Canadian passports, which enabled the Americans to leave the country. The rest is either manufactured or unnecessary. In fact, the entire scheme of the movie was actually comical and entirely unnecessary. Once the Americans obtained the Canadian passports, they were free to leave the country, and that is exactly what happened.
The character played by Affleck is in fact less impressive than what appears on the screen: his scheme was not the product of a sophisticated mind, and the extra length to which the CIA went to create a fake production company and even a phone number for it was entirely unnecessary, especially that the details (of the last minute phone call) were all manufactured for extra dramatic effect.
This is a typical Hollywood movie with typical Hollywood twists and turns, and with the typical formulaic ending. I mean, who is going to believe that suspenseful ending: with the plane about to leave Iranian territory, while Iranian armed men were chasing the plane on the runway because they discovered at the last minute that they were duped. But the White Man is always – in Hollywood – more than one step ahead of the native.
It should not be surprising that the movie recycled racist and stereotypical depictions from other racist movies on Iran, like Not Without My Daughter. All the Iranians in the movie were frowning or angry or yelling, and the movie never bothers to subtitle what they have to say. Only the words of submissive natives, i. e. the Iranians who cooperate with the Americans and are smiley are worth translating to the audience.
There are comical touches to the movie: there is a seconds-long history lesson at the beginning of the movie which talks about the 1953 CIA coup. But that short intro leaves out the rest of the history of US-Iranian relations: the movie mentions SAVAK [Organisation of Intelligence and National Security] in passing but does not mention that the CIA helped set up that torturing apparatus of the Shah. The movie also leaves out the various cover operations between the Shah and the US, and that the Carter administration did not rule out military intervention in Iran to keep the Shah out of respect for the people of Iran, but due to the infeasibility of that option compared with the climate of 1953.
Iran and its people and culture are all unpleasant in American popular culture and there is nothing worth admiring or liking about them. Basically, Americans can’t forgive the Iranians because they had not forgiven the Americans for their 1953 coup and for their endorsement and embrace of the rule of the Shah. Nothing about Iran is pleasant according to the stereotypical American portrayal.
But there is a funny moment at the end of Argo.
Just before the credits, you read that the movie is about a great “cooperation” between countries of the world for good purposes. So of all the examples of international cooperation, Ben Affleck and his team found the Canadian-American cooperation for the production of fake passports to be the most exemplary.