Argo (2012 film)

2012 film directed by Ben Affleck

Argo is a 2012 film about a covert mission to extract six US Embassy employees out of Iran in what is now known as the Canadian Caper, in which parts of an unmade film project for Lord of Light which they had renamed Argo, were used as cover by CIA agents.

If I'm going to make a fake movie, it's going to be a fake hit.
You need somebody who's a somebody to put their name on it. Somebody respectable. With credits.
Directed by Ben Affleck. Written by Chris Terrio, based on a selection from the book The Master of Disguise written by Tony Mendez and the Wired magazine article "The Great Escape" by Joshuah Bearman.
The movie was fake. The mission was real. taglines

Lester Siegel

I gotta tell you. We did suicide missions in the army that had better odds than this.
  • If I'm going to make a fake movie, it's going to be a fake hit.

Jack O'Donnell

If we wanted applause, we would have joined the circus.
  • [Explaining the lack of fanfare regarding the awarding of Mendez' Intelligence Star] If we wanted applause, we would have joined the circus.

John Chambers

  • [To Tony Mendez] If you're going to do a $20 million Star Wars rip-off, you need somebody who's a somebody to put their name on it. Somebody respectable. With credits. Who you can trust with classified information. Who will produce a fake movie. For free.


[At a CIA briefing]
Jack O'Donnell: The six of them went out a back exit. Brits turned them away, Kiwis turned them away, Canadians took them in. Traffic calls them the 'Houseguests'; they haven't left the Canadian ambassador's house since it happened.
Tony Mendez: Why didn't we get them ten weeks ago?
O'Donnell: Too dangerous. You've got Revolutionary Guards going door to door like Jehovah's Witnesses. Half of them think Khomeini's been too lenient on the ones in the embassy.
Mendez: What about the White House?
O'Donnell: Carter's shitting enough bricks to build the pyramids. The Canadians are done; they say they're bearing too much risk. Their foreign secretary corners Vance in Brussels and told him she wants the six of them out.
Mendez: Who else knows?
O'Donnell: Just the families. Meanwhile, some genius in our embassy was keeping a mug book on everybody who worked there.
Mendez: Jesus Christ!
O'Donnell: We think it got shredded before they got in. But now the bastards are using sweatshop kids to reassemble the shreds, and once they reassemble that book, they'll know six Americans got out and they'll know what they look like. Standing room only for beheadings in the square.
Mendez: Who's handling?
O'Donnell: State is coordinating in house.
Mendez: State? They don't do exfils.
O'Donnell: They do now. They want to run it by us, strictly as consultants. Engell says its a lose-lose. These people die, they die badly. Publicly. State wants the blame, we'll give it to them.
Mendez: What does he want me here for?
O'Donnell: So he can tell State he ran it by his best exfil guy.

[The CIA starts talking about extraction options for the six US Embassy employees]
Robert Pender: What we like for this now are bicycles. We've identified back roads from the Shemiran district — a couple of rat lines through the mountains to the crossing at Tabriz. Cars are off the table because of the roadblocks.
Jon Bates: We wait until the weather clears up then deliver the six bikes, provide them with maps to the Turkish border.
Adam Engell: We have intelligence they can ride bicycles or we’re prepared to send in somebody to teach them.
Tony Mendez: Or you could just send in training wheels and meet them at the border with Gatorade. It's 300 miles to the Turkish crossings. They'd need a support crew behind them with a tire pump.
Engell: We've only been asked to sharpshoot this, State's handling the op.
Pender: Who is...?
Jack O'Donnell: Tony's an exfil spesh. He got a lot of the Shah's people out after the fall.
Mendez: Sir, if these people can read or add, pretty soon they're gonna figure out they're six short of a full deck. It's winter. You can't wait around until spring when it's nice enough to take a bike ride. The only way out of that city is the airport. You build new cover identities for them, you send in a Moses, he takes them out on a commercial flight.
Bates: We've explored those options.
Engell: They're never going to get past airport control. Komiteh own the place.
Bates: They could pose as reporters. The government issued seventy-something visas for American journalists.
Mario Malinov: Seventy-four. And the Revolutionary Guards keep them on 74 leashes.
Mendez: If they're caught with fake journalist creds, it's Peter Jennings' head in a noose in an hour. [...] Sir, exfils are like abortions. You don't want to need one, but when you do, you don't do it yourself.

Lester Siegel: Okay, you got six people hiding out in a town of what, four million people, all of whom chant "death to America" all the livelong day. You want to set up a movie in a week. You want to lie to Hollywood, a town where everybody lies for a living. Then you're gonna sneak 007 over here into a country that wants CIA blood on their breakfast cereal, and you're gonna walk the Brady Bunch out of the most watched city in the world.
Tony Mendez: Past about a hundred militia at the airport. That's right.
Siegel: Right. Look, I gotta tell you. We did suicide missions in the army that had better odds than this.

[Tony Mendez and the six embassy escapees talk about their cover stories]
Tony Mendez: You. Where was your passport issued?
Bob Anders: Vancouver.
Mendez: Where were you born?
Anders: Toronto.
Mendez: "Toron-o", Canadians don’t pronounce the T.
Lee Schatz: Some Komiteh guard is actually going to know that?
Mendez: If you are detained for questioning they will bring in someone who knows that, yes ... Mary, who are the last three prime ministers of Canada?
Cora Lijek: Uh, Trudeau, Pearson and Diefenbaker.
Mendez: What's your father's name?
Lijek: Howard.
Mendez: What's his occupation?
Lijek: Fisherman.
Mendez: Where were you born?
Lijek: Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Mendez: What's your date of birth?
Lijek: February 21, 1952.
Mendez: Good. [to Stafford] What's your job on the movie?
Joe Stafford: Producer.
Mendez: Associate producer. What's the last movie you produced?
Stafford: High and Dry.
Mendez: Who paid for that?
Stafford: The CFDC.
Mendez: What's your middle name? [Stafford stammers] What's your middle name? What's your middle name?
Stafford: Leon.
Mendez: Shoot him. He's an American spy ... Look, they're going to try to break you, OK, by trying to get you agitated. You have to know your resume back to front.
Stafford: You really believe your little story's gonna make a difference when there's a gun to our heads?
Mendez: I think my story's the only thing between you and a gun to your head.

Reporter: So the title refers to...
Lester Siegel: The Argo, it's the, you know, the thing...
Reporter: Jason and the Golden Fleece, or...?
Siegel: The spaceship, it flies around space, all over space...
Reporter: Is it the Argonaut?
Siegel: No.
Reporter: Then what does "Argo" mean?
Siegel: It means, Argo fuck yourself.

Stansfield Turner: You're telling me there's a movie office in Hollywood right now that's funded by the CIA.
Tony Mendez: Yes, sir.
Cyrus Vance: What's wrong with the bikes again?
Jack O'Donnell: We tried to get the message upstairs.
Turner: You think... You think this is more plausible than teachers?
O'Donnell: Yes we do. One, there are no more foreign teachers in Iran.
Mendez: And, we think everybody knows Hollywood people. And everybody knows they would shoot in Stalingrad with Pol Pot directing if it'd sell tickets. There are only bad options. It's about finding the best one.
Turner: You don't have a better bad idea than this?
O'Donnell: This is the best bad idea we have, sir. By far.
Turner: [short pause] The United States government just sanctioned your science fiction movie.

[Lester Siegel and John Chambers look back on the success of the operation]
Lester Siegel: The saying goes, "What starts in farce ends in tragedy."
John Chambers: No, it’s the other way around.
Siegel: Who said that exactly?
Chambers: Marx.
Siegel: Groucho said that?


  • The movie was fake. The mission was real.
  • They weren’t making a movie, they were making history.
  • The most important movie of all time ... was never made.
  • Based on a declassified true story.


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