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Coup 53

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United Kingdom · 2019
2h 1m
Director Taghi Amirani
Starring Ralph Fiennes, Taghi Amirani, Farhad Diba, Malcolm Byrne
Genre Documentary, History

This documentary tells the story of Operation Ajax, a British and American staged coup executed by the MI6 and CIA, that managed to overthrow Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh and strengthened the power of the Monarch or Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, in August of 1953.

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What are people saying?

What are critics saying?


Washington Post by Ann Hornaday

As enlightening as Coup 53 is as a secret history, it’s even more satisfying as an aesthetic exercise, treating viewers to one of cleverest workarounds in cinematic problem-solving in recent memory. It’s a nonfiction film that functions precisely as all documentaries should: as a piece of doggedly investigative, personally transparent reporting, and as simply great storytelling, full stop.


The New York Times by Ben Kenigsberg

Is Coup 53 trustworthy in every respect? Perhaps not. Both as a detective story and as a deep dive into a world event whose consequences linger, it is bracing, absorbing filmmaking.


Slant Magazine by Chris Barsanti

Once Taghi Amirani turns his attention to the coup itself, his film snaps into shape, with Walter Murch skillfully knitting together new and old interviews to lay out the story in highly dramatic form.


Time Out by Dave Calhoun

It wins you over with its scrappy underdog antics and then, later, bowls you over with its heavyweight insights.

75 by Glenn Kenny

Coup 53 is worth seeing, but its general effect on this viewer was to seek out more books, rather than movies, on the subject. Which I suppose is something.


Empire by Ian Freer

Part political drama, part history lesson, part gripping spy thriller, Coup 53 gives what has been relegated to a small footnote in Iran’s story the big, expansive, dramatic treatment it deserves.


Wall Street Journal by Joe Morgenstern

Whether or not Darbyshire’s admission is the bombshell Mr. Amirani says it is, his account is a chilling commentary on a dark chapter in Middle East history.


Austin Chronicle by Marc Savlov

Fiennes assumes the character and recites shocking revelations that Amirami’s obsessive research has disclosed. It sounds like a cheap trick, but the actor pulls it off flawlessly.


The Guardian by Peter Bradshaw

If I had a criticism of this film, it is that – like so many historians of spies and spying – the director gets a little overexcited about the archive details. Still, what a riveting story: a grim curtain-raiser to today’s tragedies.

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