'Our Man in Tehran': Film Review

A straight account of the story that inspired 2012's Oscar winner

Meet the real protagonists of 'Argo.'

A counterpart to Argo that straightens out the liberties that film took with historical facts, Our Man in Tehran is a first-person account of how six U.S. diplomats escaped Iran during the 1979 hostage crisis. Making it clear that the hero referred to in the title is Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor, directors Drew Taylor and Larry Weinstein shift the lion's share of credit back where it belongs, noting that he not only sheltered these Americans but did America's work in researching the Eagle Claw plan to rescue the 52 diplomats being held inside the U.S. embassy. (That plan was aborted due to helicopter malfunctions.) Though its life in theaters will be short, it should fare well on video with viewers whose curiosity has been stoked by the Ben Affleck film.

That film is never mentioned here, and in fact it is some time until the "let's pretend we're filmmakers" plot comes up. Taylor and Weinstein offer a good deal of background on the political and economic factors leading to turmoil in Iran, events that pushed out longtime ruler Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and brought in the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who at one time was viewed by many as a "great democratic revolutionary" and compared to Gandhi.

The storytelling picks up as the U.S. Embassy compound is attacked by Iranian students; we hear both from those in the main building, who would be held hostage (and in some cases tortured) for over a year, and from those who were in the consular building, who managed to sneak off the grounds and into the Canadian embassy. Here, Taylor and other Canadian officials join the storytelling, not only of the action in Tehran but of parliamentary maneuvering back home about how to deal with the Americans.

Tony Mendez, the CIA agent played by Affleck in Argo, appears here, and Taylor acknowledges that the idea to sneak the Americans out of the country by posing as a film crew did come from the CIA. (Taylor proposed what he believed was a smarter version, in which the "filmmakers" were not making a sci-fi epic but a film about the Iranian Revolution.) But this polished, comprehensive-feeling film makes clear how much of the work was done by our neighbors to the north.

Production companies: Rhombus Media, Film House Inc

Directors: Drew Taylor, Larry Weinstein

Screenwriters: Drew Taylor, Robert Wright

Producers: Niv Fichman, Drew Taylor, Larry Weinstein

Executive producers: Vito Ierullo, Noah Segal, Elena Semikina

Director of photography: John M. Tran

Editor: Steve Weslak

Music: Asher Lenz, Stephen Skratt

No rating, 85 minutes

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