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Argo Blu-ray Review



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#1 of 73 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted February 14 2013 - 06:19 PM

The account of how six American diplomats, caught up in 1979’s Iran Hostage Crisis, escape the country posing as a Canadian movie crew arrives on Blu-ray with a fantastic high definition presentation and comprehensive set of bonus material. Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, it won’t likely win the industry’s top prize, but it cements actor and director Ben Affleck as a filmmaker moviegoers can count on.


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Argo

Release Date: February 19, 2013
Studio: Warner Home Video
Packaging/Materials: Two-disc Blu-ray keepcase with slipcover
Year: 2012
Rating: R
Running Time: 2:00:22
MSRP: $35.99


  THE FEATURE SPECIAL FEATURES
Video AVC: 1080p high definition 2.40:1 Standard and high definition
Audio DTS-HD Master Audio: English 5.1 / Dolby Digital: French 5.1, Chinese 5.1, Spanish (Latino) 5.1, Portuguese 5.1, Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital: English 2.0
Subtitles English SDH, French, Chinese, Korean, Spanish (Latino), Portuguese, Thai Variable

The Feature: 4/5

Anti-American sentiment is at a fever pitch in the country formerly known as Persia. The exiled Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who fled at the height of the Iranian Revolution and is suffering from severe medical problems, has temporarily found refuge in the United States. Iranian militants, led by the Muslim cleric Ayatollah Khomeini, are calling for the former monarch’s extradition, but the U.S. Government refuses to turn its back on the man it helped install as Iran’s supreme ruler almost 40 years ago.


Outraged over America’s longstanding support of the Shah, student protesters and activists assembled at the U.S. embassy in Iran’s capital city of Tehran manage to breach its gates on November 4, 1979, overtaking the facility and holding hostage its diplomats, office workers and security personnel. However six Americans – including Bob Anders (Tate Donovan), Mark and Cora Lijek (Christopher Denham and Clea DuVall), Lee Schatz (Rory Cochrane), and Joe and Kathy Stafford (Scoot McNairy and Kerry Bishé) – manage to avoid capture, exiting from an unmonitored back door just as the rest of the building is overrun. The group eventually finds sanctuary in the home of Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor (Victor Garber), but it’s only a matter of time before Iranian forces (literally) piece things together.


As the embassy hostage crisis drags on into months with no resolution in sight, the CIA begins looking for ways to “exfil” or extract the six refugees that have been dubbed the “House Guests.” Operative Tony Mendez AKA Kevin Harkins (Ben Affleck), dissatisfied with the scenarios his colleagues are floating, comes up with an audacious plan. Calling on Hollywood makeup artist and sometime CIA contractor John Chambers (John Goodman), Mendez suggests the six Americans pose as members of a Canadian movie crew scouting locations for a science fiction film. The idea is met with some resistance, but given the lack of other feasible alternatives, Mendez is given the go-ahead to lay the necessary groundwork. Guided by veteran movie producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin), the team selects a script (“Argo: A Science-Fantasy Adventure”), acquires office space for the shell production company, and generates enough promotional materials and trade publicity to sell the fake project as real. It’s enough to fool the casual observer, but the true test will come when Mendez is on Iranian soil with six, hastily trained Americans, each of whom will be relentlessly scrutinized by everyone from Iranian civilians to the country’s Revolutionary Guard. Even the most seasoned operative would be unnerved by the scenario, let alone inexperienced civilians; if they manage to sell their story and escape the country, it will be nothing short of a miracle.


For his third directorial effort, Ben Affleck spreads his wings, leaving his native Boston stomping grounds – featured in both “Gone Baby Gone” and “The Town” – for an environment significantly removed in both time and location. The new challenges hardly give him pause as he’s crafted a late-70s period piece that feels authentic down to the shag haircuts and corded communication hardware.


But beyond the film’s detailed production design, Affleck tells an engaging story with skillful pacing and tension, while also successfully deviating from expected “dramatic thriller” territory. He strikes this balance right off the bat with the quasi-animated opening sequence highlighting the history of conflicts in Iran, and again when he injects some good natured ribbing of Hollywood into the scenes with Goodman and Arkin. In less capable hands the shifts in tone could come off as distracting, if not destructive to the narrative, but all of it comes together to make for a compelling glimpse into a “you can’t make this up” moment in global politics and history.


The same enthusiasm can’t be mustered for the director’s performance as the lead, unfortunately; his low key approach doesn’t make the character seem unflappable, just oddly disengaged when it was probably controlled intensity he was after. While it doesn't undermine the film, it does stand out as an issue in otherwise seamless effort.


Which raises the question of whether the film is worthy of the 2012 Academy Award for Best Picture, especially considering some of its more high profile competition. Though the film did win for Best Motion Picture Drama at the Golden Globes (and Affleck picked up the director award to boot) I suspect the film will remain “honored to be nominated” when all is said and done. Still, this doesn’t diminish what the actor-director has accomplished. With each project he’s been able to keep viewers engaged and eager to see what he’ll do next, drawing inevitable comparisons to the likes of Clint Eastwood. Whether he’ll have the same staying power and track record as that cinematic icon only time will tell, but there’s been an impressive pattern forming over the last several years that shows no signs of fading.


Video Quality: 4.5/5

Framed at 2.40:1 and presented in 1080p with the AVC codec, the transfer features satisfyingly inky black levels, a full and uncompromised range of contrast, and a richly saturated color palette evocative of the depicted era’s still and motion picture imagery. Overall sharpness is impeccable, with a visible grain pattern that appears healthy and unmanipulated by noise reduction measures. The opening of the film does include a variety of material, like archival news footage and actual Super 8 film shot on location, which offers an interesting visual comparison of sources for those interested in such things.


Audio Quality: 4.5/5

Dialogue in the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is consistently crisp, detailed and intelligible, though subtitles may need to be engaged for some of the heavier Iranian accents. Surround channels are seamless and enveloping, providing support for the score and a variety of environmental effects – crowd and office noises and the occasional helicopter flyover. Low frequencies never approach LFE territory, but the track has impressive depth and dynamic range throughout.


Special Features: 4/5

Anyone interested in the true story behind the exfiltration (AKA the “Canadian Caper”) won’t be disappointed as the bonus material relays the story in a variety of ways. The other pieces – the feature-length commentary and a featurette – look at the more technical aspects of the film, making for a decently balanced set of material. A DVD and UltraViolet digital copy round out the package.


Pre-Menu Trailers: Ultraviolet (1:22, HD) and “Beautiful Creatures” (2:33, HD).


Picture-in-Picture: Eyewitness Account (2:00:22, HD) Interviews with surviving members of the House Guests, Tony Mendez, Ambassador Ken Taylor and his wife Pat, former President Jimmy Carter, and many others relate the events of the Iran Hostage Crisis and Mendez’s extraction efforts.


Commentary with Ben Affleck and Screenwriter Chris Terrio: Available with both Korean and Chinese subtitles.


Rescued from Tehran: We Were There (16:51, HD): For those looking for less of a commitment, the interviews from “Eyewitness Account” are edited into a more condensed form.


Argo: Absolute Authenticity (11:19, HD) Through behind the scenes footage and interviews, the featurette highlights the production crew’s attention to detail and efforts to impart a sense of realism to the film with its design, costuming, location scouting, and more.


Argo: The CIA and Hollywood Connection (6:05, HD): Provides an overview of the CIA effort around “Argo,” John Chambers' work with the agency, and Tony Mendez’s professional and personal relationship with him.


Escape from Iran: The Hollywood Option (46:34, SD): Produced in 2004 for Canada’s History Television, the documentary is probably the most in-depth about what actually went down with the caper, particularly with the Canadian government’s heavy involvement in the effort.


DVD

  • 2.40:1, enhanced for widescreen, MPEG2 video
  • English, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 audio
  • English, French and Spanish subtitles
  • “Rescued from Tehran” featurette
Digital Copy: Redeem by February 19, 2015.


Recap and Recommendation

The Feature: 4/5

Video Quality: 4.5/5

Audio Quality: 4.5/5

Special Features: 4/5

Overall Score (not an average): 4/5


Warner Home Video delivers an impressive high definition presentation for actor-director Ben Affleck’s third directorial effort, detailing the rescue of six American citizens caught up in the conflict of the Iran Hostage Crisis. The bonus material offers a good balance between historical, “what really happened” information and details about the production process. While the price of the title will inevitably drop after release day, those who especially enjoyed the film should have no reservations picking it up as soon as it hits store shelves.




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#2 of 73 OFFLINE   TravisR

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Posted February 15 2013 - 12:01 AM

One of my favorites from last year so I'm looking forward to picking this up. Thanks for the review!

#3 of 73 OFFLINE   jauritt

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Posted February 15 2013 - 12:20 AM

You seem very confident that Argo will NOT win the Best Picture Oscar, and that's going against the momentum it's displayed with all of the other award shows, as well as the predictions of most of the critics/prognosticators. I myself believe that it's a toss-up between Argo and Lincoln, but I think it would be considered a mild upset at this point if Argo doesn't win. As much as I did like Argo, I do hope that your bold (at least based on your level of certainty) prediction is correct - I believe Lincoln is more deserving of the award.

#4 of 73 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted February 15 2013 - 05:46 AM

I feel like the early Academy voters will not have picked "Argo" for Best Picture. I think all the momentum from the recent awards will not sway the late voters, but instead make them consider the other contenders. "Backlash" is too negative a word to describe the behavior, but something along those lines.


That said, I'm not putting any money where my mouth is. Posted Image


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#5 of 73 OFFLINE   WillG

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Posted February 15 2013 - 06:40 AM

Definite purchase for me. Just to be sure, Warner didn't replace the 70s era opening logo used in the theatrical release, did they? Also, does anyone else suspect that "Silver Linings Playbook" might pull an upset and win BP? I personally haven't seen it, but it seems to have a good amount of momentum as well.
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#6 of 73 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted February 15 2013 - 06:45 AM

The retro Warner logo is intact.


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#7 of 73 OFFLINE   Russell G

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Posted February 15 2013 - 07:38 AM

Thanks for the review. I missed it in the theaters and look forward to grabbing it up this weekend. Looks and sounds fascinating!


I'd be shocked if Silver Linings Playbook took home best picture. It was good, but in a very generic, obvious way. So yeah, it will probably win come to think of it.... :P



#8 of 73 OFFLINE   TravisR

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Posted February 15 2013 - 08:03 AM

Also, does anyone else suspect that "Silver Linings Playbook" might pull an upset and win BP? I personally haven't seen it, but it seems to have a good amount of momentum as well.

I'd say it's a coin toss between Argo and Lincoln but Silver Linings Playbook would be my guess as #3.

#9 of 73 OFFLINE   Lord Dalek

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Posted February 15 2013 - 09:24 AM

The only thing shocking now is if Argo DIDN'T win best picture since its cleaned up every other major award since the Globes.



#10 of 73 OFFLINE   PaulDA

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Posted February 15 2013 - 09:28 AM

I'm glad they're including the documentary, for while I thoroughly enjoyed the film as a movie, I was a bit bothered by the downplaying of the Canadian contribution to the overall effort. Will definitely add to my collection as it will fit in nicely with a number of other feature films I use in my Modern Middle Eastern history course as supplements (either in excerpt or in full).
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#11 of 73 OFFLINE   Colin Jacobson

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Posted February 15 2013 - 09:41 AM

Originally Posted by Lord Dalek 

The only thing shocking now is if Argo DIDN'T win best picture since its cleaned up every other major award since the Globes.


Movies don't win BP if they don't get Best Director nominations - at least, they don't win often.  3 wins of that sort in Oscar history - and only one of those has occurred in the last 80 years.


Doesn't mean "Argo" won't win, but man, those are some heavy odds!


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#12 of 73 OFFLINE   Lord Dalek

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Posted February 15 2013 - 10:18 AM

Originally Posted by Colin Jacobson 


Movies don't win BP if they don't get Best Director nominations - at least, they don't win often.  3 wins of that sort in Oscar history - and only one of those has occurred in the last 80 years.


Doesn't mean "Argo" won't win, but man, those are some heavy odds!


Again SAG Ensemble Award neuters those odds... as well as the BAFTAs... The Toronto Film Festival... The general momentum... etc. etc.


Hope you guys like crow.



#13 of 73 OFFLINE   Colin Jacobson

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Posted February 15 2013 - 11:50 AM

Originally Posted by Lord Dalek 


Again SAG Ensemble Award neuters those odds... as well as the BAFTAs... The Toronto Film Festival... The general momentum... etc. etc.


Hope you guys like crow.


What crow?  I simply stated that it's incredibly rare for a movie to win BP when its director didn't get a BD nom. I never said it was impossible, but it's certainly rare - or does one time in 80 years not sound infrequent to you?


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Posted February 15 2013 - 12:55 PM

Something even more rare is only winning Best Picture, which Grand Hotel did, and no other film since. There is a chance that "Argo" won't win anything else.



#15 of 73 OFFLINE   Vincent_P

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Posted February 15 2013 - 02:23 PM

The Screen Actor's Guild is the largest voting block of the Academy. It's been theorized in the past that this may have been why Martin Scorsese lost twice to first-time directors who were also popular actors (Robert Redford for ORDINARY PEOPLE and Kevin Costner for DANCES WITH WOLVES). I have a feeling ARGO will win Best Picture, even though Affleck is not nominated for director. Luckily if that does happen, he'll still walk away with a statue because he was also a producer on the film. Vincent

#16 of 73 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted February 15 2013 - 02:37 PM

It also won the Producer's Guild of America Best Picture award a couple of weeks ago.

#17 of 73 OFFLINE   mattCR

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Posted February 15 2013 - 02:55 PM

Originally Posted by Vincent_P 

The Screen Actor's Guild is the largest voting block of the Academy. It's been theorized in the past that this may have been why Martin Scorsese lost twice to first-time directors who were also popular actors (Robert Redford for ORDINARY PEOPLE and Kevin Costner for DANCES WITH WOLVES). I have a feeling ARGO will win Best Picture, even though Affleck is not nominated for director. Luckily if that does happen, he'll still walk away with a statue because he was also a producer on the film.

Vincent


I tend to agree with this.   I think it's a film that makes hollywood feel good about itself.   Besides that, people keep trotting out the notion of "not even nominated for best director but win best picture.."  But that was from an era before we nominated more than 5 films.


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#18 of 73 OFFLINE   Persianimmortal

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Posted February 15 2013 - 03:40 PM

I'm glad they're including the documentary, for while I thoroughly enjoyed the film as a movie, I was a bit bothered by the downplaying of the Canadian contribution to the overall effort. Will definitely add to my collection as it will fit in nicely with a number of other feature films I use in my Modern Middle Eastern history course as supplements (either in excerpt or in full).

It's not really any of my business, but I hope you're aware that much of this film is entirely fictional, and I personally would think it inappropriate to include in any history class. This is quite aside from any debate regarding the way in which the film simplifies the politics of the area with its introduction and throughout - that would be a long and tedious debate to have here, so I won't bore anyone with that. I give credit to Affleck for trying to place the events in some sort of context with the historical introduction. I also applaud him for attempting to create an atmosphere of validity, in that - as an Iranian who was in Iran around the same time - I can see that much of it is quite plausible. He's obviously paid attention to detail in that regard, at least in terms of atmosphere, locations, and the use of actors who actually speak fluent Persian. However, the movie plays loose and fast with the facts in major ways. The Hollywood connection for example is played up far, far too much, in a rather self-ingratiating kind of way. That portion of the movie is almost entirely fictional. For example, Alan Arkin's character didn't exist in real life. Furthermore, all of the dramatic events towards the latter half of the movie are completely made up:
Spoiler
Again, this is in response to anyone who thinks there's much historical validity in this movie. There really isn't all that much there. Obviously if you just want to enjoy the film as a semi-fictional thriller, on its own merits, then that's down to personal taste. I thought it was just "OK", and I'm a bit surprised at the sudden explosion of attention the film's received.

#19 of 73 OFFLINE   PaulDA

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Posted February 16 2013 - 03:04 AM

I'm glad they're including the documentary, for while I thoroughly enjoyed the film as a movie, I was a bit bothered by the downplaying of the Canadian contribution to the overall effort. Will definitely add to my collection as it will fit in nicely with a number of other feature films I use in my Modern Middle Eastern history course as supplements (either in excerpt or in full).

It's not really any of my business, but I hope you're aware that much of this film is entirely fictional, and I personally would think it inappropriate to include in any history class. This is quite aside from any debate regarding the way in which the film simplifies the politics of the area with its introduction and throughout - that would be a long and tedious debate to have here, so I won't bore anyone with that. I give credit to Affleck for trying to place the events in some sort of context with the historical introduction. I also applaud him for attempting to create an atmosphere of validity, in that - as an Iranian who was in Iran around the same time - I can see that much of it is quite plausible. He's obviously paid attention to detail in that regard, at least in terms of atmosphere, locations, and the use of actors who actually speak fluent Persian. However, the movie plays loose and fast with the facts in major ways. The Hollywood connection for example is played up far, far too much, in a rather self-ingratiating kind of way. That portion of the movie is almost entirely fictional. For example, Alan Arkin's character didn't exist in real life. Furthermore, all of the dramatic events towards the latter half of the movie are completely made up:
Spoiler
Again, this is in response to anyone who thinks there's much historical validity in this movie. There really isn't all that much there. Obviously if you just want to enjoy the film as a semi-fictional thriller, on its own merits, then that's down to personal taste. I thought it was just "OK", and I'm a bit surprised at the sudden explosion of attention the film's received.

Actually, your reaction is a great example of why I use such films in class (I had a lengthier post written up--after 30 mins. of writing--but it did not load up and is now lost. This is my shorter version as I don't have time to do it again in full. I hope my point is as clear as it was in my first attempt.). My goal is to inculcate critical viewing skills, akin to the critical reading skills that all students of history need to develop. Many students only take a survey class or two and after that, the only history to which they are exposed are historical feature films like this one. I did my graduate work on the effects of historical feature films in shaping the general public's impressions of history and they are far more powerful than any academically rigorous monograph might be. Rather than bemoan this fact, as many of my colleagues have done over the years, I chose to find ways to use such films as the spark for further discussion, research and debate. A supplement to, not a substitute for, traditional historical material. And in the course of 20 some odd years, I've found that even "bad history movies" like The Patriot make for useful teaching moments. And sometimes, a feature film can communicate some aspects of historical truth in ways no printed material can do nearly as effectively. If anyone is interested in the way feature films can be a useful teaching tool (in spite of 'Hollywood liberties"), I strongly recommend the works of Robert Brent Toplin, Natalie Zemon Davis, Robert Rosenstone and Gary Gallagher (for starters--there are many others worth reading but these, especially Toplin and Gallagher, are the most accessible to non-specialists).
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#20 of 73 OFFLINE   Johnny Angell

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Posted February 16 2013 - 08:07 AM

This discussion of historical accuracy has brought a question to mind: is there an historical movie that was at least 90% accurate, ever? I always take all historical movies with boulders of salt, but it would be nice if there were a couple that were highly accurate.
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