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|Body of Lies
dir Ridley Scott
scr William Monahan
with Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe, Mark Strong, Golshifteh Farahani, Oscar Isaac, Ali Suliman, Alon Aboutboul, Vince Colosimo, Simon McBurney, Mehdi Nebbou, Michael Gaston, Kais Nashif
release US 10.Oct.08, UK 21.Nov.08
08/US Warner 2h08
Out of the shadows: Crowe and DiCaprio
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
While this film's themes seem to address issues of terrorism and CIA meddling, and the powerful cast suggests we're in Important Movie territory, the result is essentially just a routine spy thriller: entertaining but forgettable.
Roger Ferris (DiCaprio) is a CIA operative working undercover to track down terrorists in Iraq. His handler is Ed Hoffman (Crowe), at the end of a phone in the Washington suburbs ready to rescue him. But things get very sticky when Roger goes into Jordan to root out a powerful terrorist, while Ed gets into a power struggle with the Jordanian security chief (Strong) and Roger begins to fall for the Muslim nurse (Farahani) who cares for him after an injury. Meanwhile, Roger and Ed's operation is seriously dangerous.
The film starts promisingly with a quote from WH Auden: "I and the public know what all schoolchildren learn: those to whom evil is done do evil in return." But viewers hoping for a provocative thriller examining the issue of American meddling are in for some disappointment. As usual, Scott directs the film in such a way that it skims across the surface of the issues. It looks fantastic, with spectacular action and effects, beautiful cinematography by Alexander Witt and a kinetic pace provided by ace editor Pietro Scalia.
We also get meaty performances from DiCaprio, Crowe and Strong as men who take very different approaches to the War on Terror. Even though the script fails to get under their skin, these actors are adept at grounding their characters as believable and not always likeable. On the other hand, Farahani has a thankless role that we never really buy: they fall for each other too quickly, her cultural traditions seem to be mere set dressing, and her presence as a plot device fairly screams that she'll be kidnapped in the final act (no comment).
Viewers looking for more than a straightforward action movie, which is all this is, will need to search beneath the offhanded comment that the West has created its own enemies, people who know its vulnerabilities mainly because they've been taught by the masters. And there's also some nice subtext in the way Ed puppet-masters the action while potty training his kids or doing carpool runs, carelessly shrugging off the collateral damage he's inflicting half a world away. But with this cast and crew, these themes should have been the main event.
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© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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