Our Man in Tehran tells the real story behind the events of Argo, which dramatized the story of six American diplomats (consulate workers) who managed to escape when the consulate was seized by Iranian militants in 1979. Speaking to Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor; all living American diplomats; Tony Mendez, the now-retired CIA operative who executed the escape operation; and the Canadian politicians involved in making the plan a reality, the films seeks to “tell the real story” behind the Hollywood film and set the record straight.

After Argo was released in 2012 there was a chorus of loud declarations that the film did not tell the real story. Interestingly, the greatest opposition to this standpoint came from the filmmakers themselves. Of course it’s not 100% accurate, they said, it’s a movie. We made it entertaining. Unfortunately, in an attempt to tell the real story, Our Man in Tehran strips literally all tension and drama out of the situation, making for a very, very dry watch.

Additionally, the changes made for the sake of Argo’s story (that is, to entertain people who paid money to be, well, entertained), seem to be largely cosmetic, designed to push the tension higher. It seems that most reasonably intelligent people would know that six Canadians did not escape on a jetliner while being chased down a runway by armed men in a truck.

Despite this, however, the film still stands as the only really good documentary on the events leading up to the overthrow of the Shah and explaining why the Iran hostage crisis happened in the first place. Ken Taylor speaks eloquently about his understanding of the complex events in Iran that led to the revolution, and his first-hand experience is essential to understanding what happened. If the film had focused more on this type of detail, it would have ultimately been more successful.

There are also some stylistic shenanigans going on that make it difficult to watch. While the director’s choice to have interviewees introduce themselves, rather than just rely on a title card, things are rarely in focus. It’s possible this is intended to be a subtle commentary, but if it is, it’s pretty obvious and distracting, ultimately detracting, rather than adding, to the film.

Is Our Man in Tehran opening weekend worthy?

Unfortunately, no. Our Man in Tehran is a cheap night at best, and more of a rental or steaming choice than anything else.

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