Saturday, August 8, 2015

Movies That Make Me Cry Without Meaning To: Argo.

When Argo won Best Picture in February 2013, I hadn't seen it. I wasn't very good at watching Best Picture nominees beforehand, so when they won, I didn't know how grateful I would be for the recognition of the film's importance.

If you haven't seen it, (SPOILERS) the movie opens with a pictoral telling of the social and political history of Iran in the 20th and 21st centuries. If you don't know the social and political history of Iran, you'll learn from this that their recent history is a giant, western, bummer. It is this brilliant prologue that really sets the stage for an empathetic, and somewhat inaccurate, though very compelling, account of this true event.

This movie does not take its time. Within the first ten minutes, Iranian protesters have invaded the US Embassy and have taken several hostages. Six embassy workers have made it out and taken refuge in the home of the Canadian Embassador and his super cool wife. Also, holla out to Ben Affleck and his casting directors for choosing a Canadian to play that role. Victor Garber is a Canadian treasure that I am in love with.
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Most of the rest of the movie is a very entertaining telling of how Ben Affleck got to Iran on government falsified documents, ready to make a bogus film with his 'crew' that had 'arrived two days before he had'. His interaction with them is from where most of my emotions stem. Up until this point, what we had seen of the hostages was them having political debates around the dinner table drinking wine and having a seemingly legit good time. There was a tense moment when Jimmy Cooper (from the OC guys, that's not his character name) stepped outside for a cig. "I was only out there for three minutes," he said defensively. Other hostage looks at him sternly, "it only takes one for someone to see you." Until Ben arrives, you don't fully understand the gravity of their situation. If they are found, they will be killed. There is no foreseeable end to this situation. They could be in that apartment for another three years.

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Amid the anxiety of their impending doom, the group decides to go ahead with Ben's plan. They will adopt new identities, adjust their current appearances, and aim to make it through airport security. Things start to fall apart when it's realized that their paperwork doesn't quite match up. The group is interrogated for several minutes overlapping with their boarding time. Through an act of sheer brilliance, one of the hostages explains to the security guards - in Persian - the plot of the movie, after which they are let through to board the play. This act has always emphasized the reality that there is no replacement for first language communication when entering someone else's country and culture.
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They board the plane and take off, anxiously awaiting their entrance into International Air. The seatbelt light goes off, and the flight attendant announces that the beverage cart will soon be making its way around. The hostages celebrate. They are free. They are safe. They have made it. It's with this celebration that my tears being to flow.

I cannot express to you how safe my life has been. This isn't surprising; I grew up in North America. While I went through a period of fairly constant and paralyzing fear when I was twelve, it wasn't because I was in actual danger. The greatest thing about this movie is that it presents the Iranian/US tension in such a way that you don't see the invasion of the embassy as an act of terror or rebellion. Rather, it seems almost necessary. While we empathize with the embassy workers, the Iranians are not vilified. You can argue against that if you'd like. As I watch the celebration of safety and freedom on the plane, I am awestruck by how I've never felt that. You live with something forever and it starts to feel like a right. And while I know enough to know that I live in a sort of safety exception, not a safety norm, Argo brings to light the anxiety, stress, and lack of calm that go along with living in constant fear.

Despite all its inaccuracies and controversies, this movie made me better. So thanks, Ben. (Amy Schumer flirty face) I love you.

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