Film

Doc Our Man in Tehran Drearily Tells the Story Behind Argo

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Informative but tedious talking-head doc Our Man in Tehran is for anyone who watched Argo and then wished to hear a ditzy, history-obsessed uncle ramble about the real-life political stakes of the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis.

Co-directors Drew Taylor and Larry Weinstein inadvertently make well-spoken experts like former National Security Councilman Gary Sick and American Consulate officer Bob Anders look embarrassingly unfocused. They make Sick and Anders talk too much about the Carter administration’s fraught attitude toward Ayatollah Khomeini and Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and not enough about Canadian diplomat Ken Taylor, the title subject and the man who sheltered the six American hostages who escaped Tehran during the retroactively named “Canadian Caper.”

While Our Man in Tehran commendably treats Ken Taylor as one of the Caper’s unsung heroes, the film often feels like an unfocused corrective to Argo, since Taylor and Weinstein overemphasize everything but CIA officer Tony Mendez’s role in helping Anders and his fellow captives flee Iran. Mendez is one of the interview subjects, but he doesn’t get to talk for as much time as Taylor and Weinstein’s other witnesses do.

Former hostages, especially Anders and Mark and Cora Lijek, are the film’s most endearing subjects, briefly grounding the narrative with anecdotal details (e.g. how Anders’s Tehran airport disguise is described as both “Fellini-esque” and “like some gay European person”). Still, Anders and the Lijeks are asked to cover too much ground. Our Man in Tehran is consequently overstuffed with provocative theories, fun trivia, and way too many tangential asides.