Top critical review
3 people found this helpful
on March 24, 2015
Had to know how to rate this. On the one hand, I'd would like to give it 3.5 stars. It's entertaining. Not great, but as movie-making from the Hollywood cookbook goes, tastier than average. Has a couple of memorable lines, like "This is the best bad plan we've got."
On the other hand, I'd like to give it NEGATIVE 3 stars, because it doesn't have the nerve to tell more than about 49% of the truth.
For one thing, while they were remarkably successful in casting actors who look (or were made to look) like their real-life counterparts, Ben Affleck cast himself as Tony Mendez, despite the fact that he doesn't look a thing like Tony Mendez. It's almost a perfect example of the difference between American and British film making: a good British filmmaker would have cast some great actor who has the same troll-doll look that the real Tony Mendez had. A hero who doesn't look like a hero: now THERE's an idea ahead of its time! (The exchange in the movie where the Canadian ambassador is surprised that the Mendez character doesn't look like a "G-Man" is amusing — Affleck responds politely, "I think you're thinking of the FBI" — but it's not as funny as it could be, because "G-Man" is kind of a synonym of "hero" and Affleck looks exactly like a hero. The beard doesn't make him any less of a model and he simply isn't a good enough actor to act as ordinary as the real Mendez must have done.
And they do the same thing with the story. The truth is not so much more complicated that they couldn't have stuck to it — if they'd been willing to jettison the absurd chase scene at the end. I hardly knew how I was supposed to react to the chase scene. Did Affleck know that I already know that it didn't happen and is he cleverly poking fun at himself, as if to say, "I know this is utterly false but let's do it anyway and we'll all have a good laugh?" It didn't FEEL that way. Instead it felt to me like the writers thought that, without a final scene with soldiers in a couple of jeeps chasing a jet on the runway, the story just wouldn't be interesting enough, wouldn't ring true. It's an insult to viewers. And to me, it's a sign that the writers have no imagination, that they can't actually take a great story and tell it well. Remember, they didn't have to make this story up at all: they had it handed to them, and then they set about "improving" it. They don't even have the basic judgment to recognize a fantastic story when they see it. They even added a totally superfluous, time-wasting cliché love story (about the estrangement of Mendez and his wife at the time).
The movie also creates the false impression that the contribution of the Canadians consisted mainly in the ambassador's allowing the six Americans to hide out in his house for a couple of months, when in fact, the Canadians were very actively involved in conning the Iranians. There's almost no hint of that, and that's a shame.
So the facts are wrong, but the scenery and costuming are authentic, and hey, it's goes good with popcorn. Why is it in Hollywood that the only people who actually care about the truth are the makeup artists, set builders and costumers? It's because most of the audience doesn't care about the truth any more than the directors and the writers.