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Composed, Co-Orchestrated, Conducted, and Produced by:
Alexandre Desplat

Co-Orchestrated by:
Conrad Pope
Jean-Pascal Beintus
Clifford J. Tasner
Bill Newlin
Nan Schwartz

WaterTower Music

Release Date:
October 9th, 2012

Also See:
The Stoning of Soraya M.

Audio Clips:
3. Scent of Death (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

5. Hotel Messages (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

12. Drive to the Airport (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

16. Cleared Iranian Airspace (0:30):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

Regular U.S. release, primarily distributed via download but also available through's "CDr on demand" service.

  Nominated for a Golden Globe, a Grammy Award, and an Academy Award.

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Our Price: $12.00
Used Price: $2.75

Sales Rank: 113680

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Buy it... if you demand an intelligent approach to the geopolitical thriller genre, Alexandre Desplat satisfying stereotypical scoring techniques while also exploring enough new stylistic ground to generate an engagingly fresh score.

Avoid it... if an intentionally disparate soundscape pitting sappy orchestral melody on one side and Middle-Eastern soloists in tense rhythms on the other is still too transparent for your liking, despite this score's significant improvement over Syriana.

Argo: (Alexandre Desplat) Although the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979 is largely remembered as a disaster for American President Jimmy Carter, there was one bright spot in the history of that event. With cooperation between the CIA and the Canadian government, six of the hostages were freed from Iran using the creative ruse of a movie production company that was scouting locations at which to shoot a science fiction film in the country. The movie and its crew were completely fabricated, the CIA laboriously setting up a studio in Los Angeles for the fake picture and even placing ads in newspapers for the project. The "Argo" film was used to explain the hostages as crew members, and their escape was nearly thwarted by Iranian revolutionaries who slowly came to realize what was happening. The release of the 2012 account of these events in Argo was somewhat controversial, some facts dramatically exaggerated, the ethnicity of the casting incorrect, and its timing with the American presidential election and ongoing Iranian tensions questioned, especially with President Carter featuring prominently at the end of the film. Nevertheless, Argo was highly praised by critics and padded the career of director, producer, and actor Ben Affleck with another successful character story. The project was one natural to the abilities of composer Alexandre Desplat, whose career has included the 2005 Iranian-themed thriller Syriana, which, like Argo, was co-produced by George Clooney. Several political thrillers, in fact, litter Desplat's career, and his knack for unusually intelligent instrumental and rhythmic applications would serve Argo well. The French composer's approach to the topic is not particularly surprising, extending basic ideas out of Syriana and merging them with the melancholy tones of John Debney's The Stoning of Soraya M. and a hint of the orchestral melodrama associated with mainstream Hollywood representations of Western infusion into the region, a technique common to composers like James Horner. The resulting mixture of authenticity and sappiness is remarkably effective for Desplat, who continues to conjure enough interesting musical ideas in this assignment to compensate for its more generic, crowd-pleasing moments. Whereas Syriana remains a cold and alienating listening experience, Argo reaches for and engages the listener by inserting dramatic depth into most of its otherwise tense cues featuring regional instruments. There's almost a touch of A.R. Rahman in this merging of sensibilities, yielding a remarkably accessible result.

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The performing ensemble for Argo consists of a partial orchestra (woodwinds de-emphasized) and several notable soloists, including a mournful solo female voice and a ney, oud, kemenche, and variety of ethnic percussion to breathe sonic life into the foreign atmosphere. A solo piano occasionally offers comfort and a stark contrast to these Iranian representations. The orchestra is present for many of the rhythmic sequences of suspense, lending vital depth to the percussive tension. On two occasions in the film, the full ensemble is afforded a "silver screen" movie moment of pretty reflection, perhaps representing both the importance and relief of the mission's success but also maybe addressing the glory of the fake movie "Argo" in some way. Thematically, Argo is not particularly well enunciated, its narrative better handled by the tone and intensity of each cue rather than clear structural connections. There are three ideas that recur in the score, however. The aforementioned orchestral theme for the mission is the most obvious of these, and its usage in "The Mission" and "Cleared Iranian Airspace" is vaguely reminiscent of Horner's resolutions to his early 1990's suspense works. A seldom referenced theme for the region, introduced immediately in "Argo" and heard in "Held Up By Guards" is appropriately Middle-Eastern without being obnoxiously so. Its crescendo of gravity in "Argo" is an outstanding opening to the score. A final, keyboarded theme in "Held Up By Guards" and "Tony Grills the Six" only barely registers but offers a glimpse of the hope that comes at the end with a tortured string performance in "Cleared Iranian Airspace." The most interesting portions of Argo, however, have little to do with the overt statements of melody. Desplat's use of the regional instruments and voices to create compelling rhythms is the highlight of the work. Staccato bursts of humming in "Scent of Death" evolve into vocal effects in "Hotel Messages" and "The Six Are Missing" that emulate the sound of typed or telegraphed effects in a way that makes these cues seem like an eerily Arabic twist on John Ottman's music for the television movie Point of Origin. The latter halves of "The Business Card" and "Drive to the Airport" begin to stray into John Powell's "Bourne" territory, but the ethnic and vocal effects keep them interesting. Outright vocal lament in "Sweatshop" and "Istanbul - The Blue Mosque" is stylistically gripping and segues nicely into the traditional "Hace Tuto Guagua" piece at the end of the album. Overall, Argo is far from revolutionary, but it intelligently tackles tired stereotypes with fresh new ideas, translating into a surprisingly smooth listening experience on album. This is the type of work that could easily garner awards consideration given its strengths and the nature of the film, and the score would deserve such recognition. **** Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For Alexandre Desplat reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.3 (in 23 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.12 (in 12,185 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 2.91 Stars
Smart Average: 2.94 Stars*
***** 34 
**** 51 
*** 48 
** 54 
* 42 
  (View results for all titles)
    * Smart Average only includes
         40% of 5-star and 1-star votes
              to counterbalance fringe voting.
   music in Argo
  movied -- 10/23/12 (8:59 p.m.)
   Alternative review at
  Southall -- 10/21/12 (6:45 a.m.)
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 58:37

• 1. Argo (3:38)
• 2. A Spy in Tehran (4:18)
• 3. Scent of Death (3:26)
• 4. The Mission (2:07)
• 5. Hotel Messages (2:03)
• 6. Held Up By Guards (5:31)
• 7. The Business Card (2:55)
• 8. Breaking Through the Gates (3:50)
• 9. Tony Grills the Six (3:30)
• 10. The Six Are Missing (3:21)
• 11. Sweatshop (1:31)
• 12. Drive to the Airport (3:45)
• 13. Missing Home (3:00)
• 14. Istanbul - The Blue Mosque (2:18)
• 15. Bazaar (3:45)
• 16. Cleared Iranian Airspace (6:01)
• 17. Hace Tuto Guagua (Traditional) - performed by Familion (3:39)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert includes a list of performers but no extra information about the score or film.

  All artwork and sound clips from Argo are Copyright © 2012, WaterTower Music. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 10/16/12 (and not updated significantly since). Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2012-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.