Blu-ray Review: ‘Argo’

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Blu-ray Review: ‘Argo’
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Movie poster for "Argo"

"Argo" arrives in home video format via a two-disc combo pack that houses the film's Blu-ray, DVD, and digital copies, as well as a good number of extras. This critically acclaimed 2012 dramatic thriller follows the true-to-life tale of a federal agent assigned to get six Americans out of Iran during a 1979 hostage crisis in the U.S. embassy. His plan brings him to Hollywood where he sets up a near-impossible mission. The scheme involves the people waiting for rescue to act as film crew looking for international locations for a science-fiction movie project.

Adapted from the novel "The Master of Disguise," which is based on the declassified files perpetuated by a real-life spy, this remarkable piece of cinema offers a richly textured account of the hostage crisis and the plight and survival of the people caught up in it. Ben Affleck directs and stars this Academy Award Best Picture winner. Alongside him are other brilliant members of the ensemble cast including Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, Kyle Chandler, Clea DuVall, and Chris Messina, to name a few.

Visuals

Amidst its artistic decision not to look visually perfect in order to retain a faithful reference to its time period, the images remain consistently well-resolved with no significant artifacting, banding, aliasing, and other visual issues on display. The transfer handles both the production shots and the archive shots pretty well. The understandable standard-definition look interwoven throughout the picture rightfully ground the narrative's historical frame. The period cinematography and production design seamlessly blend together to create sets and locales that match actual newsreels and miscellaneous archive footage. Skintones also look practically lifelike even with the film's desaturated palette.

Audio

The disc package sports a five-channel lossless track, along with dubbed five-channel options in Spanish, French, Portuguese, Mandarin, and Thai. For a political thriller full of suspense-filled moments, the wide and spacious soundstage always promotes a fine assortment of elements moving through the soundscape. Yet, the front-heavy mix utilizes a subtle approach in designing its significant amount of ambient and directional effects in order to make everything discrete but convincingly real for the story.

The main vocals are always precise and well-prioritized in the center, even in the middle of chaotic scenes. The track's mid-range exhibits remarkable clarity. The low-ends provide enough weight whenever possible without making the mix feeling unbalanced. Bolstered by raw power and presence, the deep and potent surrounds deliver a highly engaging and immersive aural experience for the audience.

Supplements

The package contains more than three hours worth of supplements including the "Picture in Picture: Eyewitness Account," "The CIA and Hollywood Connection," "Rescued from Tehran: We Were There," "Escape from Iran: The Hollywood Option," and "Absolute Authenticity." It also features an audio commentary by director Ben Affleck and writer Christ Terrio and subtitle options in English SDH, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Cantonese, Korean, Mandarin (Simplified), Mandarin (Traditional), and Thai.

Final Thoughts

"Argo" is a must-own film for its grounded directing, strong acting, genuine production values, and popcorn entertainment flair. Amidst formatting it as a Hollywood mainstream work, it never lets go of its story's real-life flavor. At times close to a documentary in tone and aesthetics, this expertly crafted and purposely subdued picture is rightfully restrained and measured to slowly build tension and uncertainty. Masterfully told with quiet and slow-burning intensity, it pays reverence to its harrowing true story in the way it creates its sense of urgency. It allows the viewers to feel the hopelessness and dread encountered by the many characters involved in such life-and-death circumstances.

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