Argo (book) – Written by Tony Mendez and Matt Baglio
Rating **** 1/2
Argo (Film) – Written by Chris Terrio, Directed by Ben Affleck
Rating **** 1/2
The last book versus film review I did was Moneyball. I liked both but criticised the filmmakers for fabricating parts of the story. The same is true in this case. But in this instance the manufactured conflict added to the suspense, which was somewhat lacking in the book.
The book by Tony Mendez and Matt Baglio was a fast read. The entire buildup to the rescue attempt was intriguing. Every nonfiction book requires some degree of background information. Since this book involves the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979, there is just enough background on the how and why to set the stage for the rescue of the six American diplomats who escaped the initial takeover of the American embassy. The book also connects the dots on how Tony Mendez and his Hollywood connection with John Chambers came to be.
The story shifts between the hostages, the six diplomats hiding out in the Canadian embassy, and Tony Mendez’s plan to get them out of the country by having them posing as a Canadian film crew. It was an out of the box plan and seeing it come together made for an entertaining book.
The film version does a better than average job of setting up the embassy takeover using voice-overs and archival footage. But this is a Hollywood version of a true event, which means some scenes and characters were invented. So having read the book it was obvious to me what was an accurate portrayal and what was not. The only problem I have with this is that people who only see the film will leave the theater thinking that everything they just saw actually happened. Then again they’re trying to sell tickets.
A lot has already been written about the Oscar potential for this film. It may very well get a nomination, but this was an ensemble film where story took front and center. I wouldn’t expect any actor nominations.
If you plan on doing both book and film, you’ll want to read the book first. Otherwise, you’ll be greatly disappointed when you learn that certain scenes in the film were fabricated.
One last note: I liked the fact that at the end of the film you get to see images of some of the people portrayed in the film.