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The "Canadian Caper" gets the Hollywood thriller treatment.


Masturbatory mythmaking is Hollywood’s forté, and it’s a wonder that, apart from a Canuck co-produced 1981 TV movie, Argo is Tinseltown’s first proper crack at dramatizing the “Canadian Caper.” The subject matter is a studio exec’s dream: a stranger-than-fiction historical episode in which six U.S. consulate workers were smuggled out of Iran disguised as a Canadian film crew, while the ’79 revolution raged and the Ayatollah-supporting masses bayed for American blood. In bringing the story to the big screen, actor-director Ben Affleck shrewdly draws on the outlandish circumstances of the CIA’s audacious “exfiltration” op to offer up a combination of playful showbiz satire and slick espionage thriller.

To Argo’s credit, it does acknowledge America’s own contributions in precipitating the Iranian Revolution, as well as, briefly, the ugly side of the popular jingoism that the Iran hostage crisis inspired. But political insights are ultimately low on Affleck’s agenda. His priority here is to entertain, as well as to boost the brands of both Hollywood and U.S. intelligence services. The result is compelling enough, despite departing shamelessly from the remarkable (but hardly pulse-pounding) historical record to deliver a finale overstuffed with the hoariest of silver screen suspense clichés.