In early November 1979, a mob of hostile Iranian extremists stormed the U.S. embassy and took 52 American hostages and held them captive for 444 days. Seconds before the Iranians seized control of the embassy, six American officials managed to escape and find refuge at the residence of a Canadian ambassador. When the absence of the six Americans is discovered, an intense search for them ensues. Once found, they will almost certainly be executed publicly as spies.

Enter CIA operative Tony Mendez. The task of hatching a rescue plan falls to him, but all of their best options run from highly improbable to next to impossible, and the odds for success are even less likely.

But Mendez devises a Hail Mary pass of a plan to get them out. The pretense of a major Hollywood studio scouting locations in the Middle East for a science-fiction movie called Argo serves as the best method for giving the six Americans the most plausible cover story and a legitimate means for expediting their safe passage out of Iran. The CIA has its full resources in play, but the plan requires a level of authenticity that calls for assistance and total complicity from some high-level players in the Hollywood community. And this is where the plot’s real spice and jazz take hold. Truth is truly stranger than fiction. Ben Affleck directs and stars in this excellent, suspenseful, and now Oscar-winning thriller that rode the golden chariot to the Best Picture Oscar of 2012. HD picture is excellent with only minor instances of strobing, but not enough to pull focus. I really had to look to notice it. I credit Affleck and cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto for resolutely opting to shoot on film instead of DV. Affleck strove for period authenticity in all aspects, and the texture of film lends an extra sense of credibility to the proceedings. Interiors are beautifully lit, and the green-screen background templates and pristine CGI effects are seamlessly integrated into the exterior scenery.

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 more than sufficiently complements the impressive visuals with a truly immersive sound mix, and the center channel dialogue track never gets overwhelmed by the chaos occupying the surround speakers. It features tremendous but also subtle background ambience. From the throngs of Islamic protestors storming the embassy to the narrow escape on the airport tarmac, the sound mix is deserving of the Academy Award nominations it received.

Argo succeeds with flying colors where Zero Dark Thirty fell so disappointingly short—and that is in the amount of supplemental material covering the actual events and the real people caught up in them. There’s a superlative picture-in-picture commentary with the people directly involved, and Affleck and screenwriter Chris Terrio also provide an informative audio commentary. There are four featurettes that delve even further into the making of the film and the historical detail behind it. A bonus DVD and Digital Copy are also included.

The Canadians, the CIA, and Hollywood made for some very strange bedfellows at this particular moment in history, but they all came together against impossible odds and pulled off something truly amazing and life affirming. Argo is a winner from start to finish and worthy of a permanent place in your collection.

Studio: Warner Bros., 2012
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio Format: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Length: 120 mins.
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Ben Affleck
Starring: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin

Lofty's picture

How Hollywood can call this the best film of the year is truly mindboggling. "Argo" is, at best, a very average thriller just a couple of steps better than a made for tv production.
Affleck's acting is, as usual, wooden. His direction, likewise. His style is reminiscent of another ho-hum actor turned director, Ron Howard. Both serve up very linear, very boring productions.

Throw in the fact that the movie is wildly inaccurate. There was no suspenseful airport runway climax. The hostages got on the plane and flew off just like any other flight. The inference that Tony Mendez and the CIA did everything is pure distortion. The forged documents were provided by Canadian intelligence. Affleck and his team portray the Canadians as nothing more than genial hosts who pour good booze.