‘Argo’ and Other Forgivably False “True Story” Films

Argo, Ben Affleck’s true story of American hostage extraction by way of Hollywood fakery, hits DVD and Blu-ray today on its way to a possible Best Picture prize at Sunday night’s Oscars. But as with its fellow nominees Zero Dark Thirty and Lincoln, Argo has been the object of some concern over historical accuracy, culminating in yesterday’s proclamation by Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir that “Argo doesn’t deserve the Oscar” because it “uses its basis in history and its mode of detailed realism to create something that is entirely mythological.” While Affleck’s film is certainly not our favorite of the Best Picture nominees, we’d have a hard time arguing that a film’s fast/loose play with the facts should be a disqualifying factor. In fact, plenty of pictures we’ve been rather fond of weren’t exactly slavish to historical accuracy; we’ll take a look at Argo and its “true-ish story” brethren after the jump.

Argo

We’ve been singing the praises of Argo since its release in October, but make no mistake: there’s a whole lot of fiction in this true story. Those who were intrigued enough by Ben Affleck’s thriller to track down the Wired story that inspired it may have been disappointed to learn that some of the scenes that seemed too good to be true — specifically those at the film’s white-knuckle conclusion, with the tense airport interrogation and the runway pursuit — were, in fact, not true. Disappointing? Sure, especially considering how painstakingly other elements of the story are replicated. But Affleck and screenwriter Chris Terrio appear to have followed Mark Twain’s advice: “Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.”