Argo Blu-ray Review
It’s a shame, but ARGO now seems more famous for the award it didn’t get nominated for (Best Director at the Academy Awards) than for all of the awards it has won (the majority of Best Picture and Best Director awards not named Oscar). There’s a reason it has won most of the awards this year; it’s one of the best movies to come out in 2012 and clicks on all levels, firmly establishing director Ben Affleck as one of the best storytellers working today.
ARGO is based off the true story of how CIA operative Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) organized a rescue mission to extract six Americans that were being held captive in Iran in 1980. It’s a story that’s so crazy, it has to be true. To get out the hostages, Mendez devised a plan to go into Iran posing as a Hollywood crew, scoping out locations for a new science fiction movie, titled “Argo”; the idea being that each hostage member would be part of the film crew; writer, set designer, cameraman, etc. Obviously, Iran was not a great place for Americans back in the early 80’s and so the crew ran into several obstacles, which made the second half of the film one nail biting scene after another. I actually knew the story before I saw the movie and I still found myself nervous for everyone involved, which is a testament to how great of a director Ben Affleck has become over the years.
When I try to identify the star of the film, it’s Ben Affleck the director more so than Ben Affleck the actor. Although he was brilliant in his portrayal of Tony Mendez, his talented directing is what makes ARGO so great. Affleck did a masterful job balancing the seriousness of hostages trapped in Iran with the typical ridiculousness of Hollywood. He made it funny, but not so much it couldn’t be taken seriously and he made it intense, but not overbearing. It’s amazing how much he’s grown as a director and how he manages to improve upon every outing. GONE BABY GONE was also a great film, but ARGO is on another level.
One of the things that I feel gets lost in the praise of ARGO is the human element in the film. The six hostages collectively act as one character, but together, they grow throughout the film. They start out nervous and scared of their own shadow and then find the confidence within them to make their way through the Iranian airport. Once again, Affleck captures this beautifully, using a close-up shot of his own expression while Joe (Scoot McNairy) is convincing the guard that they’re really a film crew. In that scene, Mendez was completely helpless and for the first time, had to rely on someone else to save the day. It’s a great moment and a very powerful scene that had the perfect amount of subtlety to it; a sign of a director at the top of his game.
We’ve seen movies about the government enlisting the help of Hollywood to put on a fake movie in order to satisfy ulterior motives, such as WAG THE DOG and THE LAST SHOT, but none have taken on such serious subject matter and none have done it so well. Let’s face it; most movies about Hollywood are self-serving wastes of time, but ARGO is not so much about Hollywood or the filmmaking process (although there are plenty of jokes at Hollywood’s expense), but it’s more about average Americans putting their faith in one guy that his crazy idea will get them out of a dangerous situation unscathed. When broken down to the human level, ARGO is a powerful film and one that deserves the recognition its received.
Video: Warner Bros. went all out on the film that will probably win Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Found footage aside, the video looks beautiful and pristine.
Audio: The audio track is just as impressive as the video, bringing the film completely to life.
Picture in Picture: Eyewitness Account: I find that most films that are based on true events seem to include features that gloss over what really happened. So imagine my delight when I started watching this and it featured firsthand accounts from people that were actually there, including Tony Mendez himself. I don’t see how you could have any more questions about the events depicted in the film after watching this great picture in picture feature.
Commentary with Ben Affleck and Chris Terrio: This isn’t the most exciting commentary track to listen to, but it is a very informative look at the making of the film. Affleck and Terrio stick mainly to the basics of the movie making process.
Rescued from Tehran: We Were There (16:58): Mendez and some of the hostages, as well as President Carter show up and talk about what really happened. This is nice for anyone wanting an overview from the actual participants and don’t want to watch the whole PiP feature.
Absolute Authenticity (11:03): This feature dives into Affleck’s demands that the film be as realistic as possible and the research the crew had to do to get ready for filming.
Escape from Iran: The Hollywood Option (47:02): This is a documentary from 2005 that features more real footage from the event as well as firsthand accounts from those that were there. It’s an interesting documentary, but I felt it was a rehash of what we had just seen in the PiP feature.
The CIA and Hollywood Connection (5:57): This featurette doesn’t fit into the rest of them because it feels more like a fluff piece with too much movie footage cut in.