With this year's edition of the Oscars fast approaching it only makes perfect sense that some of the best of the past year are now hitting DVD & Blu-Ray for mass consumption. "Argo" is the true to thriller centering around the US diplomatic hostage situation in the early 1980's in Iran that melds a little bit of history with a whole lot of Hollywood.
Directed by Ben Affleck
Based on true events, “Argo” chronicles the life-or-death covert operation to rescue six Americans, which unfolded behind the scenes of the Iran hostage crisis; the truth of which was unknown by the public for decades. On November 4, 1979, as the Iranian revolution reaches its boiling point, militants storm the U.S. embassy in Tehran, taking 52 Americans hostage. However, in the midst of the chaos, six Americans manage to slip away and find refuge in the home of the Canadian ambassador. Knowing it is only a matter of time before the six are found out and likely killed, a CIA 'exfiltration' specialist named Tony Mendez (Affleck) comes up with a risky plan to get them safely out of the country. It's a plan so incredible, it could only happen in the movies.
The historical accuracy of "Argo" isn't one that I will even begin to debate however this much is certain. This film is a tense and thrilling ride and Affleck has easily crafted his most complete film to date, that while obvious Oscar bait also works on a purely popcorn level of filmmaking. Crafting a film reminiscent of the iconic political thrillers of the 1970's through the use of archival footage along with a tension building musical score, we as an audience get dropped right into the middle of the nation at this time as the emotions of frustration and the overwhelming desire to do something bled through the screen. The script flows with relative ease and never gets hung up anywhere, even during the third act which took place entirely in Iran during the rescue mission. Affleck is getting better and better as director in pulling an audience into to some unbelievably tense moments as it seamlessly builds to a dramatic finish. As well as having a talented eye for painting the visual aspects of the story, he is quickly becoming an actor's director as this solid ensemble brought this story to life.
It's never really the best idea to director yourself in the lead of a film, that is unless you surround yourself with some of the very best talent around. As Mendez, Affleck is solid as he conveys a quiet calm throughout the film spearheading an idea that he knows has a snowball's chance in hell of being successful, but he does it anyway because it is quite frankly there only choice. The always reliable Bryan Cranston delivers as his immediate superior and friend in a world of espionage where friends just don't exist and John Goodman and Alan Arkin deliver some wonderful comic relief as Mendez's Hollywood partners in helping a movie that will never get made off the ground. There are several other familiar faces sprinkled through the film like Victor Garber, Titus Welliver, Kyle Chandler, Chris Messina and Tate Donovan just to name a few, but this is really a great example of the sum of the performances being equal to the parts, the only thing that was designed to shine was the story, and really that was the point to begin with. It's no surprise that this ensemble took home the award for best performance from a cast at the Screen Actor Guild Awards.
While the film transfer has a little bit of grain to it, it was all by design in placing us in the timeframe at the very least hoping to create an immersive cinematic experience. Special features include a feature length commentary track from director Ben Affleck and writer Chris Terrio, 4 behind the scenes and historical featurettes as well a picture-in-picture experience that you can play along with the feature recounting the stories of survivors.
At the end of the day, "Argo" is still just a movie. While some can get angry about the historical accuracy of the events or how anybody was portrayed, there is no arguing that this is an incredibly entertaining movie that will rope in an audience again and again, and just might win a few more trophies this coming Sunday night.
4 out of 5 stars.
"Argo" is now available to rent on DVD & Blu-Ray at all major video stores as well as via all major on demand providers. You can also find it available for purchase at all major retailers like amazon.ca, iTunes or HMV.