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While making a documentary about the CIA/MI6 coup in Iran in 1953, Iranian director Taghi Amirani and editor Walter Murch (Apocalypse Now, The Conversation,The English Patient) discover never seen before archive material hidden for decades. The 16mm footage and documents not only allow the filmmakers to tell the story of the overthrow of the Iranian government in unprecedented detail, but it also leads to explosive revelations about dark secrets buried for 67 years. Working with Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Schindler’s List, The English Patient) to help bring the lost material to life, what begins as a historical documentary about four days in August 1953 turns into a live investigation, taking the filmmakers into uncharted cinematic waters. The roots of Iran's volatile relationship with America and Britain has never been so forensically and dramatically exposed.


passionate and fearless

will enthrall documentary and history geeks

jaw dropping revelations

has the air of something that grew from an impudent home movie into a magnum opus

Todd McCarthy - Hollywood Reporter Telluride Review 4 Sep 2019

Full Review


New York Times Critic’s Pick


It takes a certain kind of documentary to make sifting through old papers look exciting, but in Coup 53, the director Taghi Amirani sets an expectation of suspense early on


Across time and space, a single, consistent story emerges. For a narrative shrouded in subterfuge, that’s a considerable achievement.


Both as a detective story and as a deep dive into a world event whose consequences linger, it is bracing, absorbing filmmaking

Ben Kenigsberg - New York Times

Full Review

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.

Anne Hornaday - Washington Post

Original Score: 4/4

Full Review

As history lessons go, this is a powerful one in which a wealth of interviews and stunning graphics have been pulled together, with extraordinary attention to detail, into an intricate but lucid whole.

a formidable achievement

Joe Morgenstern - Wall Street Journal

Full Review



The film’s editor is Walter Murch, who worked on “The Conversation” and “The Godfather: Part II” (both 1974), so there’s not much that he doesn’t know about conspiracy—how it leaks into a movie like the smell of drains 

the momentum of the plot can hardly fail to engross

Anthony Lane – The New Yorker

Full Review

“This is big. This is going to be big!”

Werner Herzog

Comment at Telluride World Premiere

2 September 2019


An exhilarating... historical documentary that unfolds

with the pace and complexity of a thriller

John Powers – Fresh Air, NPR

Full Review


"a work of art and a masterpiece of political intervention"

“a thriller that had me on the edge of my seat”

"beyond extraordinary"

Ariel Dorfman

Email to Walter Murch & Taghi Amirani

as compelling as a John Le Carré novel or a Costa-Gavras classic

Allen Hunter - Screen Daily

Full Review


This powerful and authoritative documentary by

the Iranian filmmaker Taghi Amirani is as gripping as any thriller

 A riveting documentary on a very British coup

a grim curtain-raiser to today's tragedies

Peter Bradshaw – The Guardian

Original Score: 4/5

Full Review




The sheer level of granular detail could overwhelm without Amirani’s boundless to-camera energy. He transforms sifting through dusty plastic bags and filing cabinets into a thrilling detective case


Ralph Fiennes appears, lending a wry Le Carré air to proceedings as an enigmatic MI6 agent with an explosive testimony

Larushka Ivan-Zadeh - The Times

5 stars

Full Review



Thrills and chills as spectacular Fiennes reveals a very British coup

Coup 53 is stranger than fiction and a terrifying reminder that the past never goes away

this unclassifiable yarn feels like a thriller

Charlotte O’Sullivan – London Evening Standard

Full Review



the most enthralling and revelatory documentary I’ve seen over the past year

this eye-opening film quickens the pulse and provokes the brain for a full two hours

Todd McCarthy – Deadline Hollywood 31 July 2020

Full Review


This is not some dry piece of historical revision. Amirani's passion is palpable from the start and he peppers his film with twists and reveals that would make John le Carré smile

Danny Leigh – Financial Times

Original Score: 4/5

Full Review



Taghi Amirani’s thrilling, energetic doc Coup 53, which recalls a little-explored chapter of twentieth-century Iranian history by pulling you into the engine room of its making. It wins you over with its scrappy underdog antics and then, later, bowls you over with its heavyweight insights


It’s like taking a swim in John le Carré’s brain.

Dave Calhoun, Time Out

4 out of 5 stars

Full Review


A maddening, gripping portrait of how imperialism works

Coup 53 is almost as concerned with the film-making process – the lists, the dead ends, the searching – as much as it is with political history

Tara Brady – The Irish Times

4 out of 5 stars

Full Review


A labour of love, the film is premium detective work

With admirable tenacity and care, Amirani has dragged official secrets back into the light.

Tim Robey – The Daily Telegraph

Original Score: 4/5

Full Review


it has a bit of “All The President’s Men” about it


Combining archival footage, interviews, and animation, the documentary is a lesson in representing fact in narrative storytelling


Coup 53 is not a dry geo-politics lesson. Instead, Amirani mounts the story with the intrigue, surprises and élan of a spy thriller and creates a film that combines the personal and the political to captivating ends.

Ian Freer - EMPIRE

Original Score: 4/5

Full Review



Coup 53 is a historical documentary that plays more like All the President’s Men had it been written by John le Carré with a dash of Costa-Gavras and Manchurian Candidate by John Frankenheimer


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


a spellbinding rabbit-hole of a movie, rife with outsized characters and conspiracies galore, but also and perhaps more importantly an eye-opening window onto the U.S. and Iran’s current state of mutual enmity.

Marc Savlov Austin Chronicle

Original Score: 3.5/5

Full Review


History buffs and John le Carré fans should love this documentary about Britain’s shameful involvement in a 1953 Iranian coup in 1953

It’s like an outtake from Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy

Daily Express

4 out of 4 stars

Full Review



Essential viewing, much like the best political thrillers

Ian Sinclair - Morning Star 

5/5 stars

Full Review


What if I told you the best spy movie of the year was actually a documentary?

Coup 53’ is a game-changer and genre-defining film

Director Taghi Amirani’s captivating “Coup 53” is a thriller for the ages


Instead of a traditional tiresome, historical documentary, Taghi Amirani and Academy Award winning editor Walter Murch (“Apocalypse Now” and “The English Patient”) bring back to life an extraordinary examination of one of the most atrocious acts and pivotal moments in modern day history


The dark, salacious secrets are an astonishing revelation and are brought to life thanks to some ingenious, inspirational interviews and footage.


This is unlike any documentary you’ve experienced!


To say this is a profound political piece of film history is downplaying the significance. This passion project is a masterpiece! Dare I even say Taghi Amirani’s magnum opus?


Imagine Costa-Gavras’ “Z” meets “Argo” with a John Le Carré novel twist. “Coup 53” is firing on all cylinders and is if “Munich” or “The Bourne Identity” film series was made into a documentary with just as many twists and surprises. Taghi Amirani exceptionally executed an unforgettable, unique documentary experience that is unlike anything you’ve seen.


 Out of all of the films I’ve seen all year long, this is easily a Top 10, if not a Top 5 Film of 2020!

JM, Mike the Fanboy

4 out of 4 stars

Full Review

  • Year
  • Runtime
    119 minutes
  • Language
    English, Persian, French, Italian
  • Country
    United States, United Kingdom, Iran
  • Premiere
    Telluride Film Festival 2019
  • Rating
  • Director
    Taghi Amirani
  • Screenwriter
    Taghi Amirani Walter Murch
  • Producer
    Paul Zaentz Taghi Amirani
  • Executive Producer
    Gerry Ohrstrom Neda Nobari Jon Wilcox
  • Co-Producer
    Amir Amirani Ahmad Kiarostami
  • Cast
    Ralph Fiennes
  • Cinematographer
    Chris Morphet Taghi Amirani Claudia Raschke
  • Editor
    Walter Murch
  • Animator
    Martyn Pick
  • Music
    Robert Miller