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Matt's Body of Lies Review

Updated on November 14, 2009

Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crow team up and butt heads in Body of Lies, a Ridley Scott film about the war on terror.  This film was released in the theater in 2008 to mixed critical reception.  I’ll tell you right off the bat, I love a good spy thriller, and I thoroughly enjoyed this movie.

Observations

-          Normally, this wouldn’t be important, but a brief note on Box Office results.  This film had a budget of about 70 million.  It grossed 40 million dollars domestic, and 115 million world wide.  Those results are disappointing, especially considering the cast and the director, but not entirely unexpected considering the subject matter.  This is an ongoing trend that I’ve observed over the years.  People just don’t tend to flock to theaters for this sort of movie.  In most cases it’s not hard to argue with, after all, why pay 10$ to see something in the theaters when you can see the real thing on the news?  In this case, however, I’d advise an open mind to those who would normally avoid this sort of film like the plague.

-          Stylistically, this is not the sort of film I’ve come to expect from director Ridley Scott.  The modern tech-thriller is more up the ally of his brother Tony Scott.  If you look at Ridley Scott’s filmography, Body of Lies is a departure for him.

-          There are a lot of twists in this film.  It’s loaded with information, and the plot is complex, with characters that are constantly deceiving each other.  This is not a film that you can watch with your mind on your dinner, you’ve got to pay attention, or else you will be lost.  Whether this is a flaw in the movie will depend on the viewer – I for one don’t mind a complicated film, especially one as intelligent as this.

-          The character Aisha may be the one and only element that really gives me pause.  Without saying too much, she does get involved with DiCaprio’s character, however, the movie doesn’t get hung up on it.  Some critics had even more issues with her inclusion in the film than I did, but I suppose it didn’t hurt that she added a personal element to the stakes.

Performances

-          Leo DiCaprio is fast becoming one of my favorite performers.  Happily, his heart-throb days are behind him now, and he’s taking on more adult roles.  He plays the main protagonist Roger Ferris in this film who is an intelligence agent working against terrorist cells in Jordan.  Although he doesn’t demonstrate the extent of his range in this film, he still puts forth a really strong performance.  Very intense.

-          Russell Crow is good at just about every roll he ever tackles and Body of Lies proves no different.  He plays Ed Hoffman in this film, who is Ferris’s handler.  This was an interesting departure for Crow who tends to play characters that are more earnest than this.  Hoffman is a slimy, scheming fellow who keeps landing Ferris in hot water with the Jordanian intelligence – who he has to work with.

-          Mark Strong plays Hani Salaam, the Jordanian intelligence officer that Ferris works with for most of the movie.  The two develop an interesting, and complex dynamic.  I’ve only seen Strong once before in a film – Stardust.  Of course, his role is much more serious in Body of Lies, and he rises to the task magnificently, holding his own admirably against DiCaprio and Crowe who are two very heavy hitters.

Music, Cinematography, and Special Effects

-          The music in this film is not a particularly noticeable element.  In this case, it by no means should be.  It sets up the tone and the atmosphere well enough and enhances the tension, but most likely would not stand well on its own.

-          Cinematography is something that Ridley Scott does very well, Body of Lies does not disappoint.  Particularly noticeable is a scene taking place in a desert in Syria.  Syria is sort of like Mars, hot, dry and with nothing there, not even oil – this is captured beautifully in one shot of the film.

-          Nothing particularly notable in the special effects department, but everything was done convincingly.

The Bottom Line

This is a very well put together film, intelligent plot, smart script and good performances, and good production values.  The subject matter may make this film a hard sell for some, but intelligent thrillers like Body of Lies do not come around that often.  This is a really good film.  See it!  8/10

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