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A good heist movie leaves the door open for plenty of opportunities for some comedy and action and plenty of drama and suspense, and the best of them manage to weave these different aspects effortlessly. Some of my favorites over the years have included The Killing, Ocean's Eleven (both the original and the remake), Quick Change, Heat and Grand Slam, and recently Ben Affleck's The Town entered near the top of my list.

 Argo
Based on real events, the dramatic thriller Argo chronicles the life-or-death covert operation to rescue six Americans, which unfolded behind the scenes of the Iran hostage crisis, focusing on the little-known role that the CIA and Hollywood played—information that was not declassified until many years after the event. On November 4, 1979, as the Iranian revolution reaches its boiling point, militants storm the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, taking 52 Americans hostage. But, in the midst of the chaos, six Americans manage to slip away and find refuge in the home of Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor. Knowing it is only a matter of time before the six are found out and likely killed, the Canadian and American governments ask the CIA to intervene. The CIA turns to their top “exfiltration” specialist, Tony Mendez, to come up with a plan to get the six Americans safely out of the country. A plan so incredible, it could only happen in the movies.

It's kind of interesting that off of the success of The Town that Affleck has crafted one the best heist movies ever with Argo, a film that ticks all of the marks and is as likely to make you laugh as it is to make you grip the edge of your seat. It doesn't hurt that the cast is uniformly excellent with John Goodman and Alan Arkin largely handling the comedic aspects of setting up the caper while Affleck and the folks trapped in Iran do the heavy dramatic lifting.

There's also been some real work done in recreating the places and events of the hostage crisis, but my favorite bit is that the entire film could be mistaken for a number of films made during the late seventies. This isn't just because of the setting of the picture, but the style in which it's shot and other choices right down to the look of the actual film itself. If one were to mistakenly place it alongside the company of pictures such as All The President's Men or Dog Day Afternoon you couldn't really fault them for it. Argo is the work of a director working at the top of his game, and the apparent ease at which it all comes together into a near perfect piece of filmmaking is a tribute to Affleck the director, who is now three-for-three as far as I'm concerned.

 Argo
Video
Warner Home Video presents Argo on Blu-ray with a 1080p, AVC-encoded video transfer at the film's 2.40:1 theatrical aspect ratio, and while the results may at first seem to be rather subdued they're anything but. Purposefully shot as if it were made by any one of the great directors of the 1970s--take your pick from Sidney Lumet, Martin Scorsese, Alan J. Pakula, Sydney Pollack and a host of others-- Argo is a throwback to a specific time, not only in its story and design but in the way it looks right down to the grain structure of the film stock used. To that end Argo is nearly flawless, and the Blu-ray captures this aesthetic to a tee. The transfer also features strong black levels and fine detail, and I didn't notice any unintentional defects in the transfer itself such as aliasing, banding or artifacting. Being a newly released theatrical presentation, there also aren't any defects such as dirt or debris from the source material used for the transfer. As a fan of mid-seventies to early eighties cinema, specifically the look of films such as Mean Streets, Serpico and Taxi Driver just to name a few, Argo is a real treat.

 Argo
Audio
The video presentation of Argo is a bit of a throwback, and a welcome one at that, but the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that Warner Home Video has provided on this disc is definitely a product of today. It's a very lively track that takes full advantage of the surround field and LFE channel and at times makes one feel a part of what's going on up on the screen, especially during certain sequences such as a tense walk through a crowded marketplace and navigating the Iranian airport. Dialogue is always clearly audible from the center channel though, and I didn't hear anything out of the ordinary that would be considered defective in any way. Overall this is an excellent audio presentation on Blu-ray.

 Argo
Extras
Warner Home Video has packed the Blu-ray of Argo with plenty of special features, and it's hard to imagine that any future release could add anything substantial enough as to warrant an upgrade. First up is the excellent Picture-in-Picture feature, "Eyewitness Account", which features interviews from most of the principle parties of story ranging from Iran hostage crisis survivors, Tony Mendez, President Jimmy Carter and many others. you should watch the movie once and then watch it with this feature turned on, but save room for a third viewing while listening along to the included audio commentary with director Ben Affleck and writer Chris Terrio. Affleck has always been engaging and insightful on every track I've ever heard featuring his involvement, and this one is no different. The two cover virtually everything on screen and behind the camera to give a nice overall sense of the making of the movie, making for one informative and interesting listen.

Also included are three high definition featurettes; "Rescued From Tehran: We Were There (18 min.) features President Carter, Mendez and the houseguests recounting their experience, and though much is retread from the PiP track it's worth a watch. The second piece, "Absolute Authenticity" (11 min.), is a decent production featurette with Ben Affleck concerning the research that the production team went through in order to make the film as authentic as possible. Finally the third short "The CIA and the Hollywood Connection" recounts the working relationship between the CIA and Hollywood in pulling off the rescue operation. Another included, standard definition feature, "Escape From Iran: The Hollywood Option", is a documentary produced in 2005 for the 25th anniversary of the operation and offers more interviews with the house guests and their hosts in the Canadian embassy. Also included in the two-disc set is a DVD copy of the film and an UltraViolet digital copy. Overall this is a very good set of extras that you'll want to watch in order to better appreciate the picture and all involved.

 Argo
Overall
Argo is arguably the best picture of 2012 and I wouldn't be in the least bit surprised if it won the Academy Award for Best Picture (edit: it did). Its mix of true story, Hollywood saving the day and direction by a well known and well liked actor all work in its favor, but it's also an excellent piece of powerful filmmaking. Warner Home Video's Blu-ray presentation is outstanding with great video and audio and a nice selection of extras that put the film into a greater context. You shouldn't hesitate to pick this one up as soon as you can.

* - The images on this page do not reflect the Blu-ray quality of the disc.


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