Acclaimed documentary filmmaker Barbara Kopple (Harlan County USA, American Dream) applies her refined partisanship to this thorough examination of Operation Eagle Claw, a failed 1980 rescue mission ordered by President Jimmy Carter to bring home 52 Americans taken hostage in the aftermath of the 1979 Iranian Revolution. It’s straightforward but engrossing nevertheless; through interviews with many of those concerned—including President Carter himself—and provocative archival footage, Kopple organizes a compelling narrative, exhibiting her talent for working with knotty subject matter that begets an abundance of ancillary media and nuanced perspectives. Especially interesting are interviews with Iranians either involved with the hostage situation or who were present at the remote desert location known as Desert One, where a series of tragic events resulted in the deaths of eight American soldiers and the mission being aborted. Kopple seems to posit that this situation, combined with his inclination toward diplomacy rather than militancy, resulted in Carter’s loss to Ronald Reagan in the 1980 presidential election; some have even speculated—and it’s more or less been confirmed—that the Reagan campaign helped negotiate a delay in the hostages’ release until after the election. Kopple’s knack for contextualizing events while exploring their emotional and sociological implications makes for a captivating investigation into this chapter of American history.