The true story of CIA agent Tony Mendez and his risky plan to free six Americans trapped after their embassy is seized by revolutionaries.
Even if a screening is sold out, tickets are often available 30 minutes before the start of the film at the box office at each venue.
The screening on Thu 18 Oct at 12:15 will have subtitles and audio-description.
Director Ben Affleck
Ben Affleck (Gone Baby Gone; The Town) again justifies his directorial stripes with this riveting third feature based on the true story of CIA ‘exfiltration’ agent Tony Mendez (Affleck). It’s the end of 1979 and the Iranian revolution has reached a critical breaking point. When the American Embassy is seized by revolutionaries, Mendez devises a risky plan to free six Americans who escaped and are being sheltered by the Canadian ambassador. Masquerading as the producer of a new sci-fi movie, he enters Tehran on the pretext of location scouting, but not before he has fool-proofed his backstory by setting up a fake production office in Hollywood with producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) and special effects guru John Chambers (John Goodman) at the helm. Chris Terrio’s muscular screenplay (Joshuah Bearman wrote the original Wired article that inspired it) smartly mines the comic potential of the fake movie set-up, but never once loses grip on the mounting tension in the real-life drama that is unfolding. Affleck’s regular production designer Sharon Seymour superbly recreates the late 70s period detail for CIA headquarters, Hollywood and Tehran and the film is magnificently scored by Alexandre Desplat (whose LFF 2012 music credits also include Rust and Bone and Reality).
You really just rely on a good screenplay that’s rooted in reality, and you rely on good actors where their performances are so credible that if you’re invested in them, you’re invested in what the stakes are from moment to moment. John Ford said ‘directing is 90% casting’, and it’s in evidence here. For example, what John Goodman and Alan Arkin were able to do, in terms of taking the Hollywood satire element of the movie and keeping it realistic while making it funny, that was incredibly challenging – but necessary. Really to stitch the movie together so it didn’t just feel like a series of shorts. You know, one about the CIA, one that was a comedy about Hollywood and one that was a sort of Costa-Gavras movie. In that sense you totally rely on actors. And I got a great script that I thought actors would respond to because it was smart. I got very very lucky [...] There is a clear divide between documentaries where you expect a stricter adherence to facts and truth and history. With our movie, we say ‘Based on a True Story’- I learnt this from lawyers – rather than ‘This is a True Story’, so it’s understood that we’re allowed to take some dramatic licence. So, for example, at the beginning, the house guests went from Place A to Place B to Place C, and it would have been a lot of shoe leather. So, we kind of compressed to where they went straight to the Canadian Ambassador’s. You know, in terms of making a movie and sort of being truthful about it, I think there’s a spirit of truth, and there’s sort of literally what happens. We got really lucky, because most of what happened in this movie is extremely compelling, and the characters were very interesting, so it made it fun and a pleasure. And I could actually rely on that. I’d have questions and say, ’I don’t know, should it look this way, should it look that way?’ And we’d go, ‘Well, how did it really look? Let’s look at the actual material’. So, it was actually kind of a crutch to me.
Born in Berkeley, California in 1972, the former child actor dropped out of both Occidental College (where he was studying Middle Eastern Affairs) and the University of Vermont, but soon catapulted to fame and acclaim on both sides of the camera. Early appearances in Kevin Smith movies Mallrats and Chasing Amy projected his acting career, while his co-writing (with long-time friend and fellow star Matt Damon) of Good Will Hunting attracted the 1997 Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. He has ever since juggled high-profile roles as actor, director and producer.
1993 I Killed My Lesbian Wife, Hung Her on a Meat Hook and Now I Have a Three-Picture Deal at Disney [s]
Enjoy a world of benefits with BFI Cinema Membership.
Follow the BFI London Film Festival live blog.