With the second premiere of Zero Dark Thirty in theaters across the United States, and the recent Golden Globe Awards presented to Ben Affleck for Argo, both films are, for the moment, relevant enough to discuss once again.
As it turns out, these films are quite similar to one another. They are both dramatic depictions of actual American CIA/military operations in history. They both have the same basic structure to them. They are both politically neutral despite having the potential to be message-oriented movies. They both have strong characterization of lead protagonists. And quite simply, they’re both awesome.
Directed by Ben Affleck, Argo gives us the 1979 Iran Hostage Crisis, the quick backstory before the takeover, the takeover itself, and then the movie. What is lesser known about the events of the Hostage Crisis is that six employees of the American Embassy in Tehran actually escaped as the takeover was happening, and sought refuge in the Canadian Embassy where they hid for months. When the CIA was informed about them, Agent Tony Mendez (played by Affleck), hatches a crazy idea to exfiltrate the escapees by posing as a Canadian filming crew, scouting locations for a fake sci-fi film called “Argo”. The film gives us an insider’s look on 1980 Hollywood with more than a few jokes against itself. And while the film does not carry an agenda, you’ll be surprised as to how unapologetically the film treats the radical revolutionaries in Tehran as a device to dampen the tone and intensify the third act.
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty, is, very simply, a movie about the hunt for the man responsible for the attacks on September 11, 2001 – Osama Bin Laden. Virtually nothing is actually known about the hunt itself, other than the fact that it was ultimately successful, so the film is centered around CIA Agent “Maya”, an exquisitely sharp intelligence analyst relentlessly following a lead she is determined will ultimately lead her to Bin Laden himself, in spite of doubt, distraction, and disappointment.
And when we finally get to the mission, the film explodes into a full-on tactical military action thriller that is as epic as they come.
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