Welcome Back Ridley, We've Missed You
- Originally, I was not sure if I wanted to see Body Of Lies (2008) because the trailer had made the film out to be nothing more than a big "screw you" message to America within a Hollywood starlet-lead action film. Luckily, I did see the film and I was surprised at how much I ended up liking it.
Body Of Lies gives a lot to think about regarding the War on Terror. I am sure many will either leave the theater blindly satisfied with what they think is an anti-American film or steam-coming-out-of-the-ears angry at this "blame America" flick. I, however, found the film not only entertaining, but very thoughtful.
William Monahan's adaptation of David Ignatius' novel is a smart and entertaining story filled with interesting characters, surprising ulterior motives and clever double-crossings. Sure, there is a romantic B-plot that is forced albeit "cute" or whatever and the ending is very rushed, but I do not think that it takes too much away from the film as a whole. The story also is not incredibly biased as I feared. It does not merely point fingers at the United States, though it does in parts for arguably good reasons most of the time, and the film presents many different sides and things to think about the War on Terrorism.
The acting is great - Mark Strong overdoes it in some scenes with his performance of the high-ranking Jordanian intelligence official Hani and there are a good-sized handful of stereotypical characters throughout the film (in the form of Westerners and Mid-Easterners). However, headliners DiCaprio and Crowe are operating at a very high standard and Golshifteh Farahani is a great surprise as the desert flower Aisha.
Leonardo DiCaprio steals the show, continuing his amazing A+ acting streak set in Catch Me If You Can (2002) with his performance as CIA agent Roger Ferris here in Body Of Lies. It sure helps that his character is likable, interesting, and well written/developed: Ferris has a lot of respect for the Middle East, its people, and Islam - he might even be a Muslim. He is very good at his CIA job; desiring to do good, help people, and come out of the War on Terror as the victor. But he is disgruntled and battered by the system on which the war is being fought - cooperation and understanding seems to be lacking in the strategy for victory. Russell Crowe's CIA big-wig Ed Hoffman character would very sternly but energetically tell you that, because the enemy is so difficult to find and destroy, there is no time for cooperation and understanding. When you find a terrorist, you take them out crudely and quickly. DiCaprio's Ferris and Crowe's Hoffman go together like nails and a chalkboard and their on-screen rivalry is exciting to watch.
Coming off of what I found to be the epitome of mediocrity, American Gangster (2007), Ridley Scott recovers his reputation quickly with his excellent work on Body Of Lies. As with most Ridley Scott films, there is a definite film world that we get sucked into in Body Of Lies. Scott's ability to create a unique movie setting is one of my favorite things about his work; even for films with stories taking place in modern times (like Matchstick Men (2003) or Black Hawk Down (2001)), the audience is still taken to Scott's own designed film world. Scott's direction is also just spot-on on a technical level - the action scenes look great and his attempts at suspense work like a charm.
Body Of Lies is not my favorite film from Ridley Scott; I am still seeing more and more of his films as life moves forward but a number of films are still ahead of Body Of Lies as far as my personal Ridley Scott favorites go. However, I can easily say that I really enjoyed Body Of Lies - it is very well made, has excellent performances, and provides a lot to think about. Plus, it was just a welcomed return to form for Scott after the dismal American Gangster (2007).
CBC Rating: 9/10