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Saturday, 15 November 2008

Body of Lies, 2008 - Movie Review

Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe, Mark Strong
Running Time: 128 minutes
Score: 4 / 10

This review by Eric Lavelle of Ion Cinema.

The size of a country’s circle of friends is ultimately decided by, how well one plays with others. With the kind of historical blemishes and failed foreign policy track record that the U.S have, the notion of courtyard bully rings especially true. Ridley Scott proposes that the CIA has multiple agendas on the war on terror when lead by arrogant arm chair decision makers and, the incognito ground troops that are one blunder away from certain death. Stylistically speaking, Body of Lies contains Scott’s trademark visual treatment of geopolitical hotbed zones and advances the double cross, spy game narrative with a pacing that yields satisfactory results, but scribe William Monahan's simplified formula, bad guy and good guy facile arrangement is less striking and impressionable than say, a CIA agent stationed in the Middle East film like Syriana - where the lead character and story arch is much more complex, not so black and white and richer in narrative design.

Scott avoids getting knee deep in political jargon by placing emphasis on the not-so-chummy relationship between well-defined characters toplined by Leonardo DiCaprio and Scott-regular with a couple of belt-sizes more in Russell Crowe. The distinctive differences is that the field worker with idealist motivations places more value on other folks in civilian clothes than perhaps the realists who see human life as simple ponds in a larger chess match. Unfortunately, the tension between these two characters is advertised throughout, the in-house disagreements over strategy are as clumsy as the nonchalant subplot inclusion of romantic proposal between a nurse and DiCaprio’s fluent Arab-speaking American character that has an appreciation for a culture and a people who clearly do not share the same sentiment in return. The reasons why DiCaprio’s Roger Ferris is so bent on doing one good deed after another remains aloof -- and the dreamy certainly adds no value to this plight, however, the main interest lies in the core story element retained from David Ignatius’ novel where mimicking the actions of a terrorist whose expertise lies in bombs and loss of human lives.

Actor Mark Strong, a spitting image of Andy Garcia, is perhaps the only character that delivers the goods. A high-ranking Jordanian intelligence player who seems to understand the bigger picture for his nation’s politics sets up a personal agenda in accordance to a strong set of principles, unfortunately, Body of Lies never cares to establish why the film’s protagonist belongs in a headspace where he feels he owes his life to people and a culture clearly detached from his own. Fans of the action sequences and technical work found in Scott’s Black Hawk Down will find more of the same high octane, but in smaller doses and will appreciate moments where bone cartilage acts as shrapnel, but will find minor issues of the heart and accompanying tetanus shots less appealing in the geopolitical scheme of things. Clearly, this is far from being the weakest of the recent wave of spy games where Americans overstep their limits in the Middle East.


Anonymous said...

This movie is definitely one the best of 2008

Live for films said...

Cool. I've still not seen it yet. Who was the best in it? DiCaprio or Crowe?