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'Argo' Is A Story So Ridiculous It Has To Be True

Ben Affleck's new movie recalls the Iranian hostage crisis and Hollywood's role in saving six Americans trapped in Iran.

"I don't believe it!" Well, you don't have to believe all of it, because Argo was never meant to be real — until the CIA got a hold of it.

Ben Affleck's third venture as a director is based on fact, though when Hollywood gets involved, anything goes — as CIA operative Tony Mendez found out.

Argo recounts an incredible plan to rescue six American embassy workers during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. Mendez (successfully underplayed by Affleck) was the CIA's top extractor who created the plan that never should have succeeded, but did.

Mendez goes to Hollywood to enlist the help of real-life Planet of the Apes makeup artist John Chambers (John Goodman) and producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin). Armed with a script so bad that no one in their right mind would touch it, the trio became the unheralded heroes of the crisis during which 52 Americans were held hostage for 444 days.

Mendez takes the script to Iran, under the guise of scouting exotic foreign locations for the movie. The six Americans who have been harbored for three months in the home of the Canadian ambassador must adopt roles as members of the production crew in this complex plan to get them on an airplane and out of Iran.

Scenes of the Americans exploring the Grand Bazaar in Iran, Islamic student militants invading the American Embassy in Tehran and bodies hanging in city streets draw out the tension and anger of the situation. The scenes are countered by images of Americans burning Iranian flags and beating Middle Eastern men.

Goodman and Arkin, meanwhile, continue their comedic assault on Hollywood. The jokes might seem inappropriate to such a tense drama, but the laughs are a welcome break.

Argo comes to theaters at a strange time, given the current tensions in the Middle East. Would Mitt Romney or Barack Obama ever sign off on a scheme like Argo to save American hostages?

Here's a look at what's showing in local movie theaters this weekend:

Lark Theater

Pitch Perfect: 5:30 p.m., 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Pitch Perfect: 4:30 p.m., 7 p.m. Sunday

Live at The Met - Otello: 10 a.m. Saturday

Century Cinema Corte Madera

Argo: 1:10 p.m., 4:05 p.m., 7 p.m., 9:50 p.m.

Century Larkspur Landing*

Paranormal Activity 4: (12:15 p.m., 2:45 p.m.), 5:20 p.m., 7:40 p.m.; 10:10 p.m.

Seven Psychopaths: (11:45 a.m., 2:25 p.m.), 5:10 p.m., 7:55 p.m., 10:30 p.m.

Taken 2: (12 p.m., 2:35 p.m.), 5 p.m., 7:30 p.m., 10 p.m.

Cloud Atlas: (11:30 a.m., 3:20 p.m.), 7:15 p.m.

* No matinee shows on Friday

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