Argo, By Antonio Mendez and Matt Baglio
Lessons on defiltration for MI6, CIA and film students
This terse, gripping account concerns one of the most successful covert operations since the Second World War – the CIA's spiriting away or, to use the technical term, defiltration of six US embassy officials who evaded the round-up of their colleagues in Tehran during the chaotic violence of 1980. It may become a set text not only at CIA and MI6, but also for film students. Following Ben Affleck's acclaimed movie adaptation, the book provides an intriguing case study about the problems of turning fact into fiction.
Most of this weirdly unlikely caper – CIA man Antonio Mendez utilised a fake SF film project as a cover to get the Americans out – turns out to be true. The earlier success of Star Wars (filmed in Tunisia) meant that it was not wildly unfeasible for six Canadian filmmakers to be in Iran scouting locations for a script that starts, "Vishnu the Preserver and Yama-Dhama, Lord of Death, have covered the whole of heaven with what is said to be an impenetrable dome…"
Affleck's massaging of events was (with one exception) uncontroversial. A typical example occurs at the climax when the passage of the six ersatz Canadians plus Mendez (played by Affleck) through the airport deliciously ratchets up the tension, culminating in their airliner being chased along the tarmac. The literary version is somewhat less dramatic: "As the DC8 roared down the runway and into the air, I felt euphoric." There was no pursuit. If there had been, surely Iranian jets would have forced the plane back to earth.
The deviation that raised hackles was the suggestion that "Brits and Kiwis" turned the Americans away. Here's the reality from Mendez: "The British were kind hosts, and offered them a house of their own, fed them a warm meal, even prepared cocktails." However, the book reports a subsequent change of mind by the British chargé d'affaires, "the presence of the Americans was too dangerous for his own people and they had to move." Film students may be asked if Affleck's manipulation was excessive? Discuss.
TV reviewBroadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair
Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere
TVThe Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 2 The confessions of men who ordered mail-order brides
- 3 UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
- 4 Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
- 5 'Isis' schoolgirls: Missing British teenager tweets picture of her Syrian takeaway
Poldark, series 1 finale, review: How a costume drama became a Sunday night swoon-fest
Al Pacino admits he was nearly fired from The Godfather and it's still his most 'difficult role'
Warner Music owner Len Blavatnik tops Sunday Times Rich List
Game of Thrones season 5 episode 3, review: Sansa and manhood-lopping torturer Ramsay Bolton - really?
The day I starred in Only Fools and Horses
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding