Our Man in Tehran delivers the Canadian side of an exciting story
Featuring Ken Taylor. Unrated
As thorough as Argo was incomplete, Our Man in Tehran delivers the Canadian side of an exciting story. While effectively setting the record straight about how boyish ambassador Ken Taylor—who could be a Graham Greene character, as the title suggests—helped spirit six American diplomats out of Iran at the height of the Islamic revolution, it also lays out some context to help illuminate how the hostage-taking came to happen at all.
Although the various talking heads—including the American and Canadian principals in the tense saga—have good things to say about Jimmy Carter’s integrity, it’s clear that he set the stage for disaster. First, by too closely aligning himself rhetorically with the CIA–installed shah, the then-president signalled to ready-to-revolt Iranians that the U.S. would stick with its man. Then, after the 1979 uprising, the U.S. took the shah in for medical treatment. Students who previously respected the sanctity of embassy compounds went nuts, and the ayatollah’s minions used radicals to goad America into being the Great Satan they wanted.
The whole drugs-for-arms-for-hostages thing is for another, more Reagan-centric documentary. This entertaining, breezily handled affair—codirected by former Blue Jays pitcher Drew Taylor and veteran doc maker Larry Weinstein—examines the intricacies of an operation overseen, with appropriate caution, by then–prime minister Joe Clark and foreign minister Flora MacDonald. Pierre Trudeau, then leading the opposition, comes off badly.
Also enlightening, especially for Argo fans, is the assertion by Ken Taylor and others that CIA “exfiltration” expert Tony Mendez ignored their suggestion to adopt a cover story about the “Canadians” working on a documentary rather than a cheesy sci-fi flick. “This is, to some extent, the way Americans do things. They got caught up,” Taylor recalls, “in the wonder of this marvellous idea they had.”