Twenty-something Richard travels to Thailand and finds himself in possession of a strange map. Rumours state that it leads to a solitary beach paradise, a tropical bliss - excited and intrigued, he sets out to find it.
Roger Ferris is a CIA operative in the Middle East; Ed Hoffman is his control at Langley. Cynicism is everywhere. In Amman, Roger works with Hani Salaam, Jordan's head of security, whose only dictum is "Don't lie to me." The Americans are in pursuit of a cleric who leads a group placing bombs all over Europe. When Hani rebukes Ed's demand that Jordan allow the Americans to use one of Jordan's double agents, Roger and Ed hatch a plan to bring the cleric to them. The plan is complicated by its being a secret from Hani and by Roger's attraction to a local nurse. Satellites and cell phones, bodies and lies: modern warfare. Written by
DiCaprio shines as usual in a technically well made film that ranks amongst the better Ridley Scott films
Ridley Scott has always been very consistent in my mind as a filmmaker. He has occasional flashes of genius (Alien, Gladiator), but always seems to make steady, good, interesting, and watchable films. The same applies here with Body of Lies. While the film will not be this year's major awards contender, Body of Lies is among the better films by Scott, somewhere between American Gangster and Black Hawk Down.
One thing Scott always manages to do in his films is ground the film in reality very well, setting a mood that allows us to get into the film easier. While it has its dark moments, I wouldn't consider this a supremely dark or depressing picture, despite the subject matter. In Body of Lies, his take on the War on Terror in the Middle East is gripping and realistic (especially the sets), though not as thrilling as it should be. Though put in danger many times throughout the film, I didn't find myself on the edge of my seat whenever those moments rolled around.
As we already know, the film features two of the most dynamic and talented actors working today in Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe. Here, Scott gives his usual tag team partner Crowe a break to let DiCaprio take the reigns. Leo has long been one of my favorite actors for his ability to bring intensity and grit to every role he plays (outside of Titanic and Gilbert Grape, of course), making real and believable characters time in and time out. Again, DiCaprio steals the show and makes the movie watchable, as he's in almost every scene in one way or another. Without his commanding and charismatic presence, the film would sink. He delivers yet another winner of a show, showcasing his ability to grow into even more adult roles as he grows older. His role in the film is strikingly similar to his position in his career. He's in between young heroic roles and adult authoritative roles, which is what his Roger Ferris is: a young CIA agent dealing with new found authority and choices.
Though on paper, Russell Crowe's role is pretty weak, he manages to turn in a great performance through an altered appearance and voice. Once again, Crowe's character symbolizes who he is as a person: a shaken soda bottle one twist from exploding. It is because our two leads (I feel weird saying that, as DiCaprio is the only true lead) work so well together and hold our attention so well that the film succeeds. An able supporting cast adds to the film as well.
Technically well made, just like every other Scott films, Body of Lies brings nothing new to the table while taking things we've seen before and one-upping the last to do it. The sound in particular was a plus for me, as was the art direction (like I've said, these are always good things in a Ridley Scott film). The preview can be a bit deceiving in marketing the film as an action political thriller, like Blood Diamond, when in reality it is the thinking man's thriller without that plot twist I thought would be coming. While the film does have some marvelous and well done action, it's few and far between, as the film is more about gathering intelligence than intelligently blowing everything up.
I also appreciate that the film rarely dragged or got boring, and I credit this to yet another winning script from William Monahan, scribe of The Departed. I think another Oscar nomination for Monahan is possible here. All in all, Body of Lies is a well made film that would be nothing special (again, the lack of thrills in some parts) if not for the commanding presence of Leonardo DiCaprio and the always consistent Ridley Scott. It's not worth losing your head over, but it is worth giving the price of admission to your local theater.
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