By now, most lovers of cinema have seen last year’s Academy Award Winner for Best Picture, Argo. Based on the true story of CIA specialist Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck, who also directed the film) and his plan to sneak American diplomats out of Iran during the hostage crisis of 1979 with the help of Hollywood players, it boasts an impressive cast and a compelling story. Now, just in time for the holidays, Warner Brothers has released the Argo Extended Edition.
For those who haven’t seen it, at the start, Iranians attack the American embassy and take a bunch of people captive. A small handful escape and hide with a friendly dignitary. With the noose closing in, and the American government unable to sanction an official rescue, Mendez comes up with the ingenious idea to fake a movie being shot in the area and get the sextet out of danger.
Now, Iran is keeping a close watch on visitors from the U.S., so with the help of Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin in an Oscar-nominated role) and John Chambers (John Goodman), filmmakers in L.A., Mendez sets up a Canadian production with an actual script and full cover identities for each of the people stranded. Then, he himself sneaks into Iran, makes it look like he’s actually scouting locations, and smuggles them back home.
It’s an unbelievable story of courage and ingenuity, one that is inspiring and inspired. Even with the outcome certain, viewers are sure to be kept on the edge of their seat as the tense situation plays out. Yes, some liberties are taken to build suspense, but in general, Argo is about real people, which definitely makes it easy for the movie to make viewers care about what’s happening.
Besides the aforementioned actors, the cast also includes Bryan Cranston, Victor Garber, Tate Donovan, Clea DuVall, Kyle Chandle, Chris Messina, Kerry Bishé, Zeljko Ivanek, Titus Wellivar, Scoot McNairy, Rory Cochrane, Bob Gunton, Richard Kind, and more. It’s a very impressive call sheet, and together, they act the hell of of Argo, delivering some really authentic performances. Combined with an Oscar-winning script, it’s a heck of a movie.
The presentation is fantastic in Blu-ray high definition. The detail is excellent, especially in darker scenes, with rich layers. The soundtrack is great, too, with a full surround effect and a nice mix between background noise, dialogue, and score. It’s definitely on par with most recent releases of modern, big budget films, which are quite good.
As the set title implies, this cut of the movie is longer, about nine minutes more than the version released in theaters. Most of the fresh material concerns Mendez’s relationship with his family. This is nice, perhaps not completely necessary, but still welcome.
Better is the wealth of extras that are included with the Argo Extended Edition. There’s a hardcover book about the production with some neat photos, a CIA ID card for Mendez (as he looks on screen), a map of Tehran so you can better track the setting, and, my favorite, a poster for the movie-within-a-movie.
There are three features exclusive to this disc. One shows the real CIA honoring this operation as part of the agency’s fiftieth anniversary. Another looks into how Affleck brought the various elements of the piece together into this finished product. The third is a mashup of the catchphrase “Argo fuck yourself,” used over and over again in the movie. Besides all of this, a number of previously-released bonuses are present as well. There’s a picture-in-picture to compare what really happened with the film, an audio commentary for the theatrical cut, interviews with Jimmy Carter, Tony Mendez, and others, and a discussion with the cast. Affleck talks about why they shot Argo in Istanbul, documents used for the mission are examined, many of those actually involved in 1979 give their perspective, and more. Basically, it’s a really nice mix of stuff about the movie and insight into the real events.
All of this makes Argo Extended Edition a really nice set. What’s included is pretty much all useful and interesting, without the fluff some releases use to beef up their extras list. Not to mention, all of the additional physical material packaged with the discs, are pretty cool, too. For a fan of Argo, this seems to be the definitive edition to have.
Argo Extended Edition is available now.