Body of Lies Reviews
Adapted by Oscar winning screenwriter William Monaghan and helmed by Oscar nominated film legend Ridley Scott, this is an old fashioned spy thriller (in plot basics and formula) with a contemporary update and execution (with style, plot specifics, and context). It's engaging, thought provoking, and a fairly solid thriller. That it looks great, has a lot of talent involved, and tries to insert contemporary (and relevant) issues and events into a standard sort of yarn gives it a lot of weight as well.
It's mostly works, but it's not without its issues, mainly being perhaps a tad too contrived and convoluted (mostly with its use of typical genre plot machinations), and not having a good finish to what could have been a potent subplot (the romance). About the first problem: this isn't the most dense or intricately layered film, but still, it seems a bit murky. About the romance: I was worried at first that the thing between Roger and Aisha would just be something shoehorned in there just for the sake of contrast to the rest of the film, and I started to be right, but then the film started to show some growth and development, especially with a scene where Roger vistis Aisha and her sister and gets into a cultural debate. After that though, the film does as I originally expected, and turns the romance into a typical plot device and ceases doing anymore with it, which is a shame because it started off with a nicely established cultural context and buildup.
I did enjoy the cinematography, complete with context specific lighting, gorgeous landscape shots, and in general camera placement, and the film's themes and discussions of various issues, mostly the socio-political-cultural stuff. It's a decent enough yarn, and the performances are pretty decent, especially the three main players (Leonardo DiCaprio as Roger, Russell Crowe as Ed, and Mark Strong (the real scene stealer) as Hani). Despite all that's good though, I think the film could have been better had it been more balanced, a little more straightforward, and perhaps just reworked all over. Had that been done, the film could have had a more satisfying finish (though it's not a complete letdown or failure, just a tad underwhelming). Also, I know there have been great advances in technology, but I find it hard to believe that everyone in this film has excellent cell phone reception at all times.
This is not one of Scott's masterworks, but despite it's flaws, it's not scarred enough to rank as one of his lowest efforts. I'd call it somewhere on the low end of the high side. You should give it a watch though, because it's got a lot to offer, does a lot of stuff fairly well, and provides a decent amount of entertainment.
Leonardo DiCaprio, above average, as always.
Russell Crowe, pretty goddamn great and hilarious.
I really liked that movie. It doesn't bring anything new to the genre, but it's still surprising and visually stunning.
I was entertained, but that's about all. As some other reviews said, and I agree with, it could have been a lot better. Especially with such powerhouse actors at work. They didn't fail Scott, he failed them.
All of that said, I do think there is a mild, ignorant attempt to understand and intelligently portray life in the Middle East, and there is an all-too-veiled, too flaccid criticism of Western relations with the Arab world.
You'd think that another combination of Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott, with Leonardo DiCaprio thrown into the mix, would be a home-run, but none of them bring their A-game to this. Ridley's direction is acceptable, but a distinct step below Blade Runner, Gladiator, or American Gangster. I have a new found respect for DiCaprio after seeing what he can really do in Revolutionary Road, but little of that is on display here. Crowe gives a better performance than DiCaprio, but still nothing particularly memorable.
Both of them were overshadowed by Mark Strong as Hani, the uncertain ally who is Director of Jordanian Intelligence, and Golshifteh Farahani, who plays a beautiful, quiet young woman who gets unwittingly drawn into the world of intelligence gathering and terrorism. The only time I was really interested in what was happening, was when one of them was on screen. Other than that, Body of Lies is just an average movie with an anti-climatic ending. That's not so bad, but I expected more from those involved.
Dicaprio strongly leads the cast, whilst Russell Crowe?s character wasn?t particular impressive. Mark Strong however was completely transformed and suited his part well and was an interesting character.
Not so much a beginning, middle and end type of story, but one that was more like an excerpt of a period of time throughout a dangerous political assignment.