Argo" is loosely based on a nail-biting Wired article published in 2007 using recently declassified CIA docs which detail an actual screwball rescue operation that took place during the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979. Affleck plays CIA officer Tony Mendez, known within the CIA for rigging Fidel Castro's Cohibas to blow up in his face, disguising black and asian officers as white businessmen, and outfitting cats with microphones to record conversations. Mendez, who at one point was head of the CIA's Disguise Section and later of the Authentication Division, wrote a memoir called 'The Master of Disguise' which details his adventures over a career in the clandestine service. John Goodman plays John Chambers, a real character who won an honorary Oscar for his costumes in "Planet of the Apes." Alan Arkin plays a fictional Hollywood producer who he based on Jack Warner. Bryan Cranston effectively delivers the angry lines of a CIA boss. The story can't get any crazier if it was made up: they falsely set up Studio Six Productions (named after the six Americans they would rescue) to use the cover of a fake production to get some Americans out of Iran. The film could not have been better timed, with the current state of relations with the Persians.
Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto used several techniques to increase the emotional tension in the film. He made experiments with every type of film he could get his hands on, and allocated different formats for the scenes according to their location. For the CIA buildings and other scenes in Washington, Prieto used anamorphic 35 mm film and got some inspiration from "All the President's Men" for the angles, camera movements, and the general layout of the office. For the sequences in Los Angeles, Prieto approximated the color and contrast of 1970's reversal film by using EFILM, and he replicated the feel of the era by studying the 1976 film "The Killing of a Chinese Bookie." In the Tehran scenes, Prieto used 2-perf 35 mm, (two perforations out of the common four) which means he only uses half of every frame, and then doubles the size of the image, which adds a grainy quality which enhances the feeling of authenticity.
I don't want to rain on Affleck's parade. Although I can't see it winning the Oscar for best film, it is an excellent movie, and the historical transgressions are minor. He exercised a lot of discipline to hold back from over-directing the film, letting the events speak for themselves. To finish up, take a look at an example of brass balls: the incredible 60 minutes interview Mike Wallace managed to get from the Ayatollah during the crisis.