Argo appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. Overall, the image looked solid.
Sharpness usually fared well. A few wide shots displayed a little softness, but that wasn’t a notable flaw – and it seemed in keeping with the movie’s “period” style of photography. I witnessed no issues with shimmering or jaggies, and edge haloes failed to appear. In terms of print defects, the opening credits showed some intentional dirt but that was it; the rest of the flick seemed clean. Appropriate grain ran through the movie.
Colors favored stylized – and often muted – tones. With 1970s films like All the President’s Men as inspirations, I expected restrained hues, and the movie delivered. With some general overlays – blues, tans – in play, I felt the colors represented the filmmaking choices well. Blacks appeared dark and rich, while shadows appeared clear and smooth. The transfer provided a nice take on the film.
I felt more impressed than I expected with the relatively active DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Argo. The soundscape opened up quite a lot more than I figured it would, as it provided a lot of good ambient material. For instance, scenes in streets or at airports or at parties bustled with activity. Segments that offered more logical “action emphasis” – such as some with gunfire or planes or vehicles – formed a lively environment that utilized the five channels in a satisfying manner.
Audio quality always pleased. Music was rich and full, while effects came across as accurate and dynamic; we got positive bass response throughout the film. Speech remained natural and distinctive. I doubt you’ll want to use Argo to demo your home theater, but I thought it created a more involving soundscape than I would’ve anticipated.
When we shift to the set’s extras, we open with an audio commentary from director/actor Ben Affleck and writer Chris Terrio. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at historical elements, story/character areas, sets and locations, period details and visual effects, cast and performances, editing, and some other areas.
When we worked just as an actor, Affleck tended to be an irreverent hoot. Now that he’s older and shooting his own movies, he’s become more subdued as a commentator, but he still manages to create useful discussions. Affleck does most of the work here – Terrio doesn’t have a ton to say – and we get a good overview of the production. While I admit I miss the funnier Affleck, I still find a lot to like about this chat.
One disappointment: Affleck and Terrio don’t say much about the historical liberties they took, though Affleck does defend an anachronistic musical choice. Too bad he picks the wrong one: Affleck rebuts criticism that he shouldn’t have used Van Halen’s “Dance the Night Away” but says nothing about the Rolling Stones’ “Little T&A”. The VH song came out in March 1979, well before the movie’s events, but the Stones tune didn’t emerge until the summer of 1981. (Oh, and Affleck also incorrectly defends the decrepit state of the Hollywood sign, as he claims it hadn’t been renovated yet, though those renovations actually were done by late 1978.)
For a picture-in-picture piece, we go to Eyewitness Account. This purports to allow us to “relive the takeover of the US Embassy in November 1979 and the daring rescue missions in January 1980 through the eyes of those who lived it.” This means we get info from retired CIA operative Tony Mendez, President Jimmy Carter, “house guests” Mark Lijek, Bob Anders, Cora Lijek, Kathy Stafford, and Lee Schatz, USMC retired/Iranian hostage Al Golacinski, and former Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor and wife Patricia. They discuss their experiences as they relate to the events depicted in the film.
It’s the first-hand nature of “Eyewitness” that makes it so valuable. We hear from no one not directly connected to the circumstances, and they deliver excellent information. My only gripe comes from the occasional dead spots, but the Blu-ray’s producers makes it easy to skip past those with your remote’s arrows, so you’re not stuck with them. “Eyewitness” provides a terrific look at the facts behind the movie’s depiction.
Four featurettes follow. Rescued from Tehran: We Were There lasts 16 minutes, 51 seconds and includes info from Mendez, Carter, Anders, Mark and Cora Lijek, Stafford, Schatz, and Ken Taylor. In essence, “Tehran” acts as an abbreviated version of “Eyewitness”, as it focuses on first-person thoughts about the movie’s events. That doesn’t make “Tehran” a waste of time if you already screened “Eyewitness”, as it includes some unique details. It’s not as valuable as the picture-in-picture feature, but it gives us some good additional information,
With the 11-minute, 19-second Absolute Authenticity, we hear from Affleck, Terrio, executive producer Chay Carter, production designer Sharon Seymour, producer Grant Heslov, costume designer Jacqueline West, rigging chief lighting technician Marc Marino, picture car coordinator Ted Moser, executive producer Graham King and actors Clea Duvall, Scoot McNairy, Kerry Bishe, Rory Cochrane, Christopher Denham, and Tate Donovan. The featurette looks at research, sets and locations, costumes and period details. We find some interesting details about the pains taken to recreate the film’s era, but the tone is a little too self-congratulatory.
The CIA and the Hollywood Connection runs six minutes, five seconds and delivers material from Affleck, Mendez, Terrio, Heslov, and actor John Goodman. This one gives us additional thoughts about the “fake movie” side of the operation. It’s short but reasonably effective.
Finally, we locate Escape from Iran: The Hollywood Option. It occupies 46 minutes, 34 seconds with details from Anders, Mark and Cora Lijek, Ken and Patricia Taylor, Mendez, All the Shah’s Men author Stephen Kinzer, former Empress of Iran Shahbanou Farah Pahlavi, US State Department Iran Country Director Henry Precht, The Canadian Caper co-author Claude Adams, former Canadian Prime Minster Joe Clark, former Canadian Embassy Chief Immigration Officer/Senior First Secretary John Sheardown and wife Zena, former Canadian Secretary of State for External Affairs Flora MacDonald, Hollywood makeup artist Bob Sidell, and former Canadian Embassy First Secretary Roger Lucy.
As one might expect, “Option” gives us another take on the events that inspired Argo. Inevitably, some of the facts become redundant after all the other materials, but I like the inclusion of additional interview subjects/perspectives, and the inclusion of period footage contributes to the piece as well. “Option” becomes another valuable program.
The disc opens with an ad for Beautiful Creatures. No trailer for Argo appears here.
A second disc provides a DVD copy of Argo. It includes the “Tehran: We Were There” featurette but omits all of the other Blu-ray extras.
Despite some liberties, Argo delivers a good piece of historical drama. It melds a mix of genres in a bright, brisk manner that seems nearly effortless and turns into a high-quality effort. The Blu-ray offers very nice picture and audio along with a strong set of supplements. Argo stands as one of 2012’s best movies and the Blu-ray represents in a very positive way.