Argo: Based on a True Story

Posted: October 11, 2012 by John C. Kwasny, Ph.D. in Uncategorized
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I know what you’re thinking: This is definitely one of the blandest movie posters of all time!  And the title?  Argo?  What’s up with that?  But then you hear it’s Ben Affleck’s third major directorial effort, and you become interested.  Follow that up with the buzz surrounding a possible Best Picture nomination and suddenly this lame movie poster morphs into a must-see motion picture!  But for some people, including my beautiful wife, there is a much simpler way to get them interested in this movie.  All it takes is just five words on a movie poster or in a trailer: BASED ON A TRUE STORY.  I joke often that these words will get an almost automatic response from my wife and even my daughters: “I want to see that!”

Argo takes us back to the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis, a time in American history I remember vividly (being 13 at the time and just getting interested politics and world events).  My main memory of these series of events was the bumbling failed efforts of President Jimmy Carter to free the hostages, followed by the strong leadership of our next President, the great Ronald Reagan, and the hostages’ eventual release.  But unknown to all of us at the time was the true story of a CIA operative who hatched a plan to create a fake movie in order to smuggle six American hostages out of Tehran–the story told in Argo.  The odd movie title Argo was the actual name of this Star Wars rip-off film that enlisted Hollywood personnel to make it look as real as possible.  From all the early reviews, this “declassified true story” is quite a brilliant, humorous, and dramatic thriller.

Now back to my wife’s five favorite words when it comes to movie selection: BASED ON A TRUE STORY.  So why do those words motivate her, as well as millions of other filmgoers, to flock to movies like Argo?  Personally, I used to avoid any movies that claimed to be true stories like the plague.  My rationale was that I lived around enough true stories all the time, so I wanted my movie watching to take me AWAY from all that reality!  I wanted stupid, mindless comedies, or science fiction, or comic book flicks, or…well, you get the idea.  BASED ON A TRUE STORY always made me think the movie would be an emotional gut-wrencher that would just wear me out rather than refresh and revitalize me.  I even avoided the movie Titanic for years by telling people who begged me to watch it: “I know how it ends.  The boat sinks.”  But, thanks to being forced by my wife to watch hundreds of “based on a true story” movies, I have come around (or maybe I’ve been brainwashed) to  see the value in this genre.

So back to the central question of this post: Why do we watch these movies?  Why does it fascinate us to watch film renditions of true stories?  One could argue that it is because of our fleshly voyeuristic tendencies: we simply enjoy watching the trials and travails of others.  Or, maybe we just like to be “in the know,” and watching a theatrical history is easier than just reading or hearing about it.  Those might be contributing factors, but I would like to believe the primary reason is connected to our status at image-bearers.  We love true stories because our souls long to learn more of the true story of God!  All true stories are pieces of HISTORY and history is really HIS STORY–it is all about God, His Plan, and His world.  Whether the average person recognizes it or not, true stories tells us more about God’s creation, God’s providence, human sin, and the course of His wise plan.  Thus, these stories can and should fascinate our hearts.

If my reasoning is sound, then Christians should be even more enthusiastic about movies that are BASED ON A TRUE STORY!  Now that doesn’t mean that every true story is worth watching, especially as produced by Hollywood.  There are many that just sensationalize all the wrong things about our world.  But the true stories that give us opportunities to think about what God is doing in history and how He works in the lives of people are good for us to enjoy–and learn from.  We’ll talk more about that in relation to Argo in tomorrow’s post.  Until then, give thanks that ALL of OUR true stories, even the difficult ones, are simply part of a sovereign, loving, and gracious God’s plan!

  1. Cindy says:

    Now back to my wife’s five favorite words when it comes to movie selection: BASED ON A TRUE STORY……….Now, Jim could have written that about me and my daughters could attest to it. Loved all your reasons behind why we like true stories. I had never thought of it that way. Insightful!

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