(out of 5)

Following the terminally ill Shah’s escape to America and Ayatollah Khomeini’s rise to power over a newly conservative Iran, Americans at the U.S. embassy in 1979 Tehran find themselves in grave danger. Crowds storm the streets, furiously demanding that the Shah be sent back to Iran to be tried, the mob eventually overpowering security at the Embassy and taking the employees hostage. Six staff members manage to escape, holing up at the home of the Canadian ambassador () and awaiting a safe escape, but the C.I.A. is at a loss as to how to get them out. Enter rescue expert  (who also directed this fine, taut thriller), who comes up with the only solution he believes will work: give the staff members the cover story that they are a Canadian film crew in Iran scouting locations. In order to pull this off, Affleck needs to put an actual film into production, hiring the efforts of a mouthy producer (a terrific ) and Oscar winning makeup artist John Chambers (). Script readings are conducted, costumes are sewn, posters are made and storyboards are drawn so that by the time Affleck enters Tehran with six fake Canadian passports in hand, the pieces are all in place and the cover story is legitimate. This doesn’t mean that the operation is secure or will go down smoothly, particularly when you factor in the shattered nerves of the people looking to escape, or the arguments amid levels of government back home. Affleck avoids fanfare and emotional manipulation with this exciting work: the music never swells to a cymbal-crashing extreme, instead focusing on the endless series of tiny details that each have consequences. Eventually the saved-in-the-nick-of-time treatment that each plot movement endures gets to be a bit much (surely not everything was an eleventh hour success, even if truth truly is stranger than fiction), but the superb acting and smooth direction carry it through and this feeling of contrivance never compromises the experience.

USA, 2012

Directed by 

Screenplay by , based on a selection from The Master of Disguise by  and the Wired Magazine article The Great Escape by 

Cinematography by 

Produced by Ben Affleck,

Music by

Production Design by

Costume Design by

Film Editing by

Film Festivals:  TIFF 2012

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Academy Awards
Best Film Editing (William Goldenberg)
Best Picture (Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck, George Clooney, producers)
Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay) (Chris Terrio)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Alan Arkin as “Lester Siegel”)
Best Music (Original Score) (Alexander Desplat)
Best Sound Editing (Erik Aadahl, Ethan van der Ryn)
Best Sound Mixing (John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff, Jose Antonio Garcia)

Golden Globe Awards
Best Motion Picture-Drama
Best Director (Ben Affleck)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture (Alan Arkin)
Best Screenplay (Chris Terrio)
Best Original Score-Motion Picture (Alexandre Desplat)

New York Film Critics Award Nominations
Best Film
Best Director (Ben Affleck)

Los Angeles Film Critics Award
Best Screenplay (Chris Terrio)

Best Editing (William Goldenberg)

National Board Of Review Awards
Top Ten Films
Spotlight Award (John Goodman)
Special Achievement in Filmmaking (Ben Affleck)

Screen Actors Guild Award Nomination
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role (Alan Arkin)

Writers Guild Award
Best Adapted Screenplay

Directors Guild Award
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures (Ben Affleck)

British Academy Awards
Best Film
Best Editing
David Lean Award for Direction (Ben Affleck)

Best Leading Actor (Ben Affleck)
Best Supporting Actor (Alan Arkin)
Best Adapted Screenplay
Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music

Cesar Award
Best Foreign Film

Boston Film Critics Award Nomination
Best Film Editing

Chicago Film Critics Award Nominations
Best Picture
Best Director (Ben Affleck)
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Editing
Best Original Score



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