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OUR MAN IN TEHRAN (review)

argo-posterOUR MAN IN TEHRAN
Written by Drew Taylor and Robert Wright

Directed by Drew Taylor and Larry Weinstein

Perhaps you’ve seen a little movie called ARGO. If you have, which I’m betting you have, then you know that the Ben Affleck film is based on the real life events of 1979-1981, where more than 50 Americans were held hostage by a militant group of Iranian revolutionaries, and focuses on a handful of them that were evacuated in an elaborate hoax meant to look like a film production location scout. You may also have heard that the film changed some of the details surrounding this rescue mission to better suit the narrative structure. Regardless of whether this fictionalization of history is morally sound or not is not for debate here. What is on the table though is a new documentary, called OUR MAN IN TEHRAN, which tackles the events as they happened, from explaining more of the politics that led up to the takeover to reinstating Canada’s more prominent role in the evacuation.

Directors Drew Taylor and Larry Weinstein have truly tapped into something unique here. Anyone coming to their film, who has seen the narrative version of this story, has a built-in framework and understanding of the crisis. By merely giving real faces and voices to what were previously just characters in a thriller, allows the viewer comprehend the events being described in a much more complete and vivid fashion. You might think that a big budget production cut specifically to illicit the most profound reaction possible would easily overshadow a miniscule documentary on the same subject. However, the stock footage used here, pulled from a number of CBC broadcasts, is incredibly effective. It paints a much more dire picture of what was happening in Iran at the time and allows the viewer to feel the desperation of the situation on a whole new level. Essentially, whatever holes ARGO was accused of having, are filled in here, and then some.

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While Weinstein is no stranger to the documentary field, having produced and directed over two dozen films already, Taylor is entirely new to the scene, and this is certainly a welcome introduction for him. It’s worth noting that he is not related to the film’s main subject, Ken Taylor, the Canadian ambassador to Iran at the time of the crisis, who gave refuge to the six Americans in his home initially. Ken Taylor is actually the title character of this film; President Jimmy Carter, who was serving at the time, even called him “Our man in Tehran”. Interviews with the actual hostages, reporters who covered the event, Tony Mendez, the CIA operative Affleck played in the film, and even former Prime Minister, Joe Clark, come together to paint a very comprehensive exploration of this crisis. If ARGO whet your appetite to know more about what truly happened, the OUR MAN IN TEHRAN, will have you fully fascinated from start to finish.

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OUR MAN IN TEHRAN opens in Toronto on Friday, September 20, at TIFF Bell Lightbox. It also premieres Friday, September 20, at 7:30 p.m. MT on Movie Central and Saturday, September 21, at 7:30 p.m. ET on The Movie Network.  OUR MAN IN TEHRAN will also be available On Demand following its premiere.

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