ARGO Stands for “Another Really Gripping Oil” Movie

ARGO 2012, Warner Bros.

2012, Warner Bros.

I finally watched ARGO (2012), which is a gripping film about the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis and the 2013 Best Picture Academy Award Winner. The movie—produced by George Clooney and Ben Affleck—addresses US entanglement in Iranian governance through an openly critical lens and has energy elements smattered in a few places.

The movie starts with a timeline to bring the viewer up to speed on the relevant history. This sequence is reminiscent of the opening of The Kingdom (2007) in the way it uses a series of images, clips, and a voiceover narrating key events.

The opening sequence presents the nationalization of the oil companies in a positive light (e.g., bringing the oil back to the people of Iran). It then implies that the nationalization inspired a 1950s coup d’Etat orchestrated by the USA and UK to secure a steady flow of oil.  For context, publicly-listed oil companies have been openly critical of the national oil companies for not making their resources open for exploitation.  It seems this movie is implying that powerful oil interests drove the US to intervene in Iran via the Coup.

This implication is further asserted when, in the 41st minute, after the embassy has been stormed, an Iranian Woman is shown reading complaints against the USA for the news cameras. Her remarks include the accusation that the USA is working on behalf of large oil companies:  “large…<unintelligible>…systems are controlled by capitalists and large oil companies”. Most of the words in the sentence are hard to hear, but the volume is strategically turned up so that the words “oil companies” are unmistakably clear.

Lastly, at the hour mark, there is a catching graphic showing the abundant flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz (which borders Iran), illustrating why that region—and Iran in particular—was strategically valuable to the world’s oil markets in the 1970s.  That region’s strategic value is just as relevant today: we still worry about Iranian stability, Middle Eastern oil production, and the Strait of Hormuz. Some things never seem to change.

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