Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Archive: 'Body Of Lies'

Movie Review
Body of Lies (2008)

"Body of Lies" is a terrible title not only because it sounds like a porno but also just because it's a bad name for a movie about terrorists, secrets of the CIA, and espionage action. It's far too generic, but it turns out that the movie itself is equally so. This latest from director Ridley Scott is a very slight offering and a large step backwards from last year's "American Gangster." The movie feels a year behind the times yet again dealing with our post-9/11 world. I guess the multiplex could handle yet another sharply edited thriller about the Middle East and U.S. occupation there, but there's honestly nothing here that we haven't already seen in many other movies. Whatever themes Scott is spewing about the war in Iraq, we've all heard it before.

Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a CIA operative who has become close to Middle Eastern royalties and uses these connections and his ability to speak Arabic to infiltrate potential terrorist threats. He's a puppet to a man named Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe), a middle-aged CIA veteran who spends his days sitting in front of his laptop and on the phone in the convenience of his home in the suburbs or in his office in Langley, VA. He tracks all of Ferris' movements and basically commits evil when he believes he's helping for the good. The interplay between DiCaprio and Crowe as these characters could've and should've been a lot more, but there's something lost in between because most of their scenes together aren't even face-to-face. They are remarkably flat even when there's a sense they're trying to light up the screen. Despite their best efforts, it seems that it's just poor writing that is holding them back. It's slyly comical, though, to see a fat, graying Crowe peering over his glasses spitting out folksy lines of smugness. He controls everything in Iraq while attending to his everyday life loading his kids into the minivan or eating some Goldfish crackers on the sideline of his daughter's soccer game. DiCaprio, however, appears to yet again just be putting on his same hero face over again.

The plot is mostly formulaic, and the movie masks this fact by becoming unnecessarily intricate and difficult to follow. As things continue to unravel, it only turns more conventional, detached, and surprisingly unemotional. There's a romance between Ferris and a Jordanian nurse that feels tacked on to give the character of Ferris a little more depth; it also works as a mere plot contrivance. The first hour feels widely unfocused and is quite a hodgepodge of a mess until one interesting twist arises that should've cropped up earlier. It involves Ferris devising a scheme to invent a terrorist group in order to lure out the real terrorists. From here, the movie tightens up for the end but never really delivers a satisfying punch. It feels as if Ridley Scott thinks he's made a movie more important than it actually is.

The biggest problem "Body of Lies" presents is that it has shockingly found a way to be a movie about torture and terrorism that's boring and dull. Isn't it wrong that the concerns with Middle Eastern political intervention and terrorism have been summed up into a lifeless action thriller? Here's a movie that could've sparked some interest because Ridley Scott has no less created something that is slick, looks good, and has quality production values, but, where's the sense of urgent conviction? It's tired, and it's tiring to watch.

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