Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Escape From Iran: The Canadian Caper

(Lamont Johnson, 1981)
Old Hollywood hand Johnson ventured North in tribute to Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor, who achieved passing fame and notoriety for his gesture of international goodwill in helping six Americans escape Iran during the hostage crisis. Of course at this remove the narrative angle is hobbled by the much subsequent revelation that Taylor was also a CIA operative, which casts these events in a rather different light; Yankee lout R. H. Thomson even calls out the CIA by name so that he can be reassured that they have nothing to do with it. One wonders if Thomson or Gordon Pinsent would have been so taken by the project had they had access to this little info nugget, although the rote demonizing of the Islamic mob suggests ulterior motives in itself. A halfhearted counter-movement inserts several carefully positioned 'good Iranians' including another Canadian diplomat's wife, which is not the only racially mixed marriage here, probably a TV-movie first. As long as the piece stays off the streets and concentrates on the tension, paranoia and boredom of the fugitives, it's quite enjoyable, although one wishes they got as much screen time as the masterminds; few get the opportunity to establish a real character. The La Presse subplot is also pleasant enough until it succumbs to a similar fate, with a few polite digs at network news superficiality and government obfuscation promptly rationalized into a manipulative plea for journalistic 'responsibility'. If Pelletier had kept digging, after all, we wouldn't have waited thirty years for the real narrative to be told.

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