Argo (Blu-ray) (2012)

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Released 27-Feb-2011

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Alternative Version-Theatrical and Extended versions
More…-PIP - Eyewitness Accounts
Audio Commentary-Director Ben Affleck and writer Chris Terrio
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Rescued from Tehran: We Were There
Featurette-Making Of-Argo: Absolute Authenticity
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Argo: The CIA and Hollywood Connection
Featurette-Escape from Iran: The Hollywood Option
More…-DVD copy of the theatrical version
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2012
Running Time 120:22
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Ben Affleck
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Ben Affleck
Bryan Cranston
Alan Arkin
John Goodman
Victor Garber
Tate Donovan
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Alexandre Desplat


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (640Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (640Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (640Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (640Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Swedish
Norwegian
Finnish
Danish
Dutch
Spanish
German for the Hearing Impaired
French
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes, constantly
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, comparison pictures

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     In November 1979 the US Embassy in Tehran is overrun by Iranian students supported by their government and the American diplomatic staff taken hostage. Unknown to the Iranians, six Americans escape and make their way to the Canadian Embassy where the Canadian Ambassador hides them in his residence; in cables they are called only the “house guests”. As the world watched the hostage drama unfolding at the US Embassy, the US administration of President Jimmy Carter plans to get the six “house guests” out of Iran. The plan that was approved was stranger than fiction, and pure Hollywood. Argo, is the story of the successful rescue of the six Americans.

     Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck), a C.I.A. covert operator, presents an audacious idea to rescue the six; they will pose as members of a Hollywood film production team scouting locations for a science fiction film to be shot in Iran. With passports issued by the Canadians, and forged visas, they will simply just catch a commercial flight out of Tehran. For the ruse to work, however, the Iranians needed to be convinced that the film and the production company are real. Mendez enlists the aid of Hollywood make-up artist John Chambers (John Goodman) and they approach producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin). Together, they buy a script treatment for a film called Argo, set up a production company, run ads and announcements in Variety and conduct a well-publicised script reading with actors in full costume.

     However, time is short as the Canadian Embassy in Tehran is about to be closed. With the legend now established, Mendez flies to Istanbul, obtains an Iranian visa and travels to Tehran where he meets with Iranian officials to establish the film company’s credentials. Mendez then has to persuade the six Americans his idea will work, school them on their roles and new identities and get them safely through the immigration procedures and security checks at the airport before the Iranians discover that they do not in fact hold all the Americans who were at the embassy.

     .Argo won the Oscar for Best Picture (as well as Oscars for Editing and Screenwriting) although controversially Affleck was not nominated for Best Director. Is Argo the best film for 2012? Unlikely, although that is not really the question; the Oscars have not been about the best film of the year for some time. Rather, it might be better to ask if Argo breaks any new ground, is thought provoking or challenging, or if the direction is innovative or anything new. Others may disagree, but I don’t think so. Argo is, in fact, an entertaining, tense, straight forward, espionage thriller with authentic detail; it is well made, well performed, and looks great. However, it breaks no new directorial ground which, I suggest, is why Affleck did not get a best director nomination. He does a good, professional job, but is not really an innovator.

     Argo has been made to feel like a 1970s political thriller and Affleck, in the extra features on this Blu-ray, has affirmed that All the President’s Men (1976) was an influence and that with Argo they tried for authenticity as much as possible. In this they succeeded; the locations look real (with Istanbul for Tehran), the actors, except for Affleck himself, look like the individuals they portray. The filmmakers have also used pictures and newsreel footage of the period to reconstruct newsreel scenes that look deliberately grainy; the film astutely switches between pretend newsreel footage and normal footage to get a feeling of tension and immediacy that works well. The authenticity of the film is helped by the fact that the filmmakers had the support of a wide range of the individuals who were involved, including Mendez (now retired from the C.I.A), most of the “house guests”, and President Jimmy Carter himself, which is quite some coup.

     The fact that Argo is based upon a true story is co-incidental, confirming only that truth is frequently stranger than fiction. In fact Argo delivers on a number of levels. It is slickly made, and like other “caper” films the set-up is hugely entertaining as the pretend film production company is set up, financed by the C.I.A. Some of the dialogue is deliciously funny, and if Affleck is somewhat staid, John Goodman and Alan Arkin as the Hollywood part of the operation are fantastic, and steal every scene they are in. As Argo moves towards the resolution of the rescue operation it creates good tension, and the scenes at the airport are well done, although the chase down the runway feels an unnecessary embellishment. I doubt it happened that way, but I am happy to stand corrected.

     Basically, Argo is an entertaining, straight forward, well-made period espionage thriller with authentic detail and good performances, especially from John Goodman and Alan Arkin who are delightful. Argo looks and feels like a caper or political thriller from the 1970s, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that!

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Argo is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1 in MPEG-4 AVC code, in 1080p. The original ratio was 2.35:1.

     Argo was shot on film and some scenes were manipulated to give a grainy 1970s newsreel look. Otherwise, the print is exceptional sharp and detail is very good, with close-ups pristine. Colours are natural, if muted, contrast and brightness consistent, skin tones good. Blacks and shadow detail are very good. There was minor, very occasional ghosting with movement, but otherwise there were no marks or artefacts.

     Both versions of the film have the same range of subtitles: Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Danish, Dutch, Spanish, German for the Hearing Impaired, French and English for the Hearing Impaired.

    An excellent print.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The audio for the extended version is a choice of English 5.1 DTS-HD MA or German and Spanish dubs, both Dolby Digital 5.1 at 640 Kbps. Audio for the theatrical cut is English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English, French, German or Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 at 640 Kbps and an English Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 at 192 Kbps.

     The English DTS-HD MA is nicely balanced. Dialogue was clear and easy to understand. The surrounds are regularly in use for ambient sound, crowd noise and music. There were some directional effects, such as helicopters overhead that were nicely rendered, and the fact that it was not overdone means that it was effective when it occurred. The sub-woofer provided bass to music and some effects, but again was not overdone.

     Lip synchronisation was fine.

     The original music by the prolific Alexandre Desplat was effective. It was supported by a number of period tracks from the likes of Dire Straits, Van Halen, The Rolling Stonesand Led Zeppelin although most of those tracks were not overly noticeable.

    A fine enveloping audio; it is balanced and not artificially aggressive.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     There is a wealth of genuine, interesting extras. The Blu-ray comes with two versions of the film: the theatrical version (120:22) and the extended version (129:35). I have not had the interest to do a frame by frame comparison of the two versions, no doubt someone will before too long. I have watched both versions, and the main difference seems to be extra scenes in the extended version involving the family of Tony Mendez, including his son’s birthday party.

     At start-up we get an ad for 3D Blu-ray (1:49) and a trailer for Trouble With the Curve (1:34) that need to be skipped.

Picture in Picture: Eyewitness Account (on theatrical version)

     This is not about the making of the film and, for example, Ben Affleck does not appear. Instead this is a commentary about what it was like from people who were involved in the events. As the film plays, a PIP screen opens on the lower right and individuals give their recollections. Appearing are Tony Mendez, ‘house guests’ Bob Anders, Cora Lijek, Kathy Stafford, Lee Schatz, Mark Lijek, Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor and his wife Patricia, USMC guard at the Embassy Al Golacinski and President Jimmy Carter. I cannot think of any other film that has input from an ex-President of the U.S.A. The PIP is frequent, and there are white subtitles available. Excellent viewing; there is some repeated information from other extras but not overly so.

Audio Commentary (on theatrical version): Director Ben Affleck and writer Chris Terrio

     Affleck does most of the talking with writer Terrio adding comments, and praising what Affleck did as if he were not in the room! While there are some comments about the cameras used, CGI shots and locations, this is not a technical commentary as it mostly covers intensions and influences, such as All the President’s Men. Not the worst commentary I have heard, and reasonably interesting.

Rescued from Tehran: We Were There (16:51)

     “House guests” Bob Anders, Cora Lijek, Kathy Stafford, Lee Schatz and Mark Lijek recall their experiences during the escape, their confinement with the Canadians and their rescue. Also giving some insights are Ken Taylor (Canadian Ambassador), President Jimmy Carter and Tony Mendez. A fascinating piece.

Argo: Absolute Authenticity (11:19)

     Behind the scenes footage plus interviews with Ben Affleck, Chris Terrio (screenwriter), executive producers, a producer, production designer, costume designer, lighting technician, car coordinator and various cast members who talk about trying to make everything real and shooting in Istanbul for Tehran. Brief but interesting.

Argo: The CIA and Hollywood Connection (6:05)

     Ben Affleck, Tony Mendez, Chris Terrio and actor John Goodman talk about the creation of the false film production company and establishing the fake movie including ads in the trade papers and the fake script. Fascinating.

Escape from Iran: The Hollywood Option (46:34)

     This 2004 documentary made for Canadian TV is an excellent adjunct to the film. Using news film, stills, limited reconstructions and interviews, it provides more detail about certain of the events so that we can see some of the areas where Argo combined or condensed events for brevity or dramatic licence. For example, the 5 Americans who escaped initially spent 4 days in Bob Anders’s apartment before approaching the Canadians. In addition, the “house guests” were not all placed together, some stayed at the house of Canadian Embassy staffer John Sheardown and his wife. Those interviewed for the documentary include the then Canadian Prime Minister Joe Clark, the Canadian Secretary of State for External Affairs Flora MacDonald, Canadian Tehran Embassy staff Ken and Pat Taylor, John and Zena Sheardown and Roger Lucy, US State Department Iran Director Henry Precht, Tony Mendez, Hollywood Make-up Artist Bob Sidell, “House Guests” Bob Anders, Cora Amburn-Lijek and Mark Lijek and Shahbanou Farah Pahlavi, former Empress of Iran. A wonderful, fascinating documentary in its own right.

DVD copy of the theatrical version of the film

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Region A US Blu-ray has different dubs and subtitles, the same extras but is the theatrical version only. The Region Free UK Blu-ray is the same as ours. Buy local.

Summary

     Oscar winner Argo is an entertaining, straight forward espionage thriller with authentic period detail. The fact that it is based upon a true story confirms that truth is frequently stranger than fiction.

    The video and audio are excellent, the extras extensive, genuine and interesting. And we get two versions of the film. An exceptional Blu-ray package.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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