Desert One plays out like a Clancy techno-thriller. And it completely engrosses in its objective and fascinating look at a classified operation, Desert One. American Spec Ops and Delta Force put together that military operation. They rescued fifty two American hostages held for four hundred and forty four days in Iran.
We can’t confuse this film with Argo. Desert One, instead plays out like a precis of relevant facts and information. And even as the timeline and narrative unfurls, you find yourself wrapped up emotionally in the events that played out.
I was a child in 1980, worrying about collecting Star Wars cards. I played with my friends, and enjoying the blissful ignorance of youth. But I can remember my parents watching the news, hearing about hostages taken in Tehran. I was not able to wrap my mind around what that event meant, and what was happening to these people.
I’m (much) older now. The able hands of director Barbara Kopple and writer Francisco Bello lays out the politics of the operation. They also lay out its players and key moments. They precisely and ably explored the perspective of those who went through the operation. The film represents all sides as we hear from former hostages. We also hear from hostage takers and the special ops forces that the American government sent to rescue the hostages.
After Iranian college students took hostages, historians argue that both American and Iranian politicians played unfair games. Kopple and Bello make no qualms about the events that were going on at the time. They simply share them through the unblinking nature of the camera eye. Events, in this case, led to a plan that went into action to extradite American citizens from hostile territory. But the best planning can suffer, no matter how many eventualities you plan for.
I didn’t know about this operation, and I went into it blind. If you have the opportunity to watch this documentary that way, do it. It’s a revelatory experience. If you know about the event, this serves as a brilliant document to record it for posterity. The events and the way things played out stunned me. And those who serve, once again, left me in awe. Those who were willing to put their lives at risk for others, to bring them home.
Desert One, while being objective, delivers on its subject matter and honors those who serve.