Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Blu-ray Review: Argo [M15]

Director: Ben Affleck
Starring:  Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin & John Goodman

The Film:
Ben Affleck’s third and most ambitious feature as director is a dramatization of the rescue of six U.S. diplomats from Tehran, Iran during the 1979 hostage crisis. The rescue mission itself is lead by CIA Intelligence Operative Tony Mendez portrayed by Affleck who plans to get the diplomats out under the disguise of a Canadian film crew scouting locations for a fake sci-fi adventure film called Argo.

Argo is intense! There’s a constant tension throughout almost the whole film. The opening scene was down right frightening, it turns your stomach. And the documentary style makes it feel all that more real. But that constant tension is relieved numerous times very effectively by well timed moments of humour, which is a real credit to Affleck’s directing. And in regards to his directing, what I admired most about this film is that it isn’t bias towards any one of the nations involved. It would have been very easy to portray the people of Iran as the ‘bad guys’ but you’re given such a clear understanding as to why they’re so angry, to the point where to begin to sympathise.

A big surprise for me is that this incredible true story has as a pretty solid connection to my all time favourite film, Planet of the Apes. The connection being that of make-up effects artist John Chambers (John Goodman) who won an Oscar for his work on the film and had previously crafted disguises for the CIA. Chambers along with Hollywood producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) who is based on a number different Hollywood insiders, assist in making the film Argo appear credible should the ‘film crew’ be called into question by Iranian authorities.

Performances are solid from a stellar cast; Bryan Cranston as Mendez’s supervisor who I’ve yet to see a bad performance from, John Goodman and Alan Arkin who both provide most of the comedic relief and of course Ben Affleck, who has never really been regarded as the best action in the world but in this case he absolutely nails it.

I thought Argo was brilliant; Affleck’s direction is flawless and I think it’s his best film to date by a mile. It’s an unbiased portrayal of a horrendous situation that will have on the edge of your seat. I’m sure you’ll utter a great sigh of relief at the film’s climax, I know I certainly did.
Argo definitely deserved the Best Picture Oscar, it just a shame that Affleck wasn’t nominated for Best Director.

The Blu-ray:
The Australian Blu-ray was releases February 27th. It’s a Double Play release which is becoming pretty standard amongst major Blu-ray releases. The bonus copy is a DVD; I would have preferred a digital copy as I think they’re more practical in this day and age with the wide spread use of devices such as iPhone and iPads.

There is an extended cut of the film which is 9 minutes longer than the theatrical version and to be honest those 9 minutes are barely noticeable. From what I did notice there are just a few extended scene between Tony Mendez (Affleck) and his son which does not add to the overall quality of the film. It’s pretty obvious to me that this extended cut is just a selling point for the Blu-ray. Fortunately we do get the choice between the two versions on the Blu-ray disc. The DVD copy is just the theatrical cut.

Picture/Audio Quality: Argo is presented in 16x9 2.4:1 widescreen and it looks great, not too sharp and with a nice amount of grain which I love. The audio sounds great, presented in DTS-Mater Audio and also Dolby 5.1 for the Theatrical Version only. It’s pretty standard really, nice and clear and well balance.

  •          Rescue from Tehran: We Were There – 16:51
  •          Argo: Absolute Authenticity – 11:19
  •          Argo: The CIA and the Hollywood – 6:05
  •          Escape from Iran: The Hollywood Option – 47:00
  •          Picture-in-Picture Commentary
  •          Feature Length Commentary

The extras in this Blu-ray are fantastic and would go as far as saying that it’s one of the best releases I’ve seen so far this year. Rescue from Tehran is an interesting and reflective featurette about the many people involved in the rescue operation and features interviews with some of the former hostages or ‘Houseguests’ as well as Tony Mendez himself and even former U.S. president Jimmy Carter.  Argo: Absolute Authenticity highlights the attention to details the filmmakers aimed for in order the make Argo appear as authentic as possible. Argo: The CIA and the Hollywood briefly explores the co-operation between the CIA, Hollywood and the Canadian government in getting the six hostages out of Iran safely. And Escape from Iran: The Hollywood Option is a 2004 documentary outlining the real events that would eventually inspire the film. It also features interviews with the houseguest, Tony Mendez and former members of the Canadian government.

Now if you’re a history buff then the feature length Picture-in-Picture commentary is right up your alley. It’s a series of clips that appear as you watch the film, again from most of the people I’ve mentioned above, mainly the houseguests and Tony Mendez and Jimmy Carter. It’s very interesting and provides a greater insight into the actual operation. And last of all there is a feature length commentary from the film director and star Ben Affleck and writer Chris Terrio.

Rating: 4.5/5

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