Old 02-02-2009, 07:37 PM
Ridley Scott's Body of Lies

Body of Lies (2008)

Every couple of years we get another film about terrorists in the Middle East. The difficult part in continuing to make films like this is that the filmmakers need to find something new to do with the situation. Ridley Scott's "Body of Lies" starts off as just another film about hunting down terrorists, but eventually finds it focus, taking what could have been a dull story and giving it a couple of interesting twists.

Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a CIA agent working to help track down terrorists in the Middle East. His boss at Langley, Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe), is an unusual man. He gives Ferris his orders, but continually interferes with operations. Thanks to some intelligence that Ferris was able to recover from a recent job, they have discovered the location of a safe house that has known terrorist connections. However, after Hoffman's interference, the safe house is destroyed, losing them their only lead on the leader of the terrorist cell, Al-Saleem (Alon Abutbul). This leads them to concoct a very original and very dangerous plan.

Overall, this film works pretty well, though it did have its share of problems. The first half comes off as somewhat of a garbled mess as the story tries to find its focus. Ferris starts with his first job of bringing in a terrorist who has information but does not want to become a martyr for the cell, but when that goes bad, he moves on to the next job involving the safe house. But that one also goes bad, making him have to regroup with Hoffman to come up with a new strategy, even though it was Hoffman's eagerness and overconfidence that messed everything up.

This is where the screenplay finally finds its focus. The screenplay was adapted from the novel, written by David Ignatius, by William Monahan, whose previous work includes the disappointing "Kingdom of Heaven" and the Academy Award winning "The Departed." The plan that Ferris and Hoffman come up with is to create a fake terrorist cell of their own in hopes that Al-Saleem will try to contact it. They choose an innocent man who looks like he could be part of the cell and make him the leader of it by taking photos of him meeting with low level Al-Qaeda members and claiming responsibility for a terrorist act in his name. This plan provides the first of two original twists of the film. The second comes at the end.

In the second half, there is an eventually love interest for Ferris that felt like it had absolutely no purpose being in the film. It turns out that it was a relationship of necessity. Not for the characters, but for the plot. The second half of the film would not have worked at all had this relationship not been introduced, though it would have been better had the screenplay given her and Ferris something better to do than have very brief conversations and an eventual dinner scene at her house. This scene felt more like it was trying to provide comic relief rather than trying to advance the plot, but came off as awkward when thrown into the film's quick pace.

The pace of the film was set up really well. Perhaps the first half of the film was merely a prologue of what was to happen in the second half. We are immediately thrown into the action as the film begins with Ferris getting his first assignment. From there, the pace does not slow down as he continues through his assignments up to and including the last act of the film.

There is a bit of torture in the last section, so some of the squeamish may be affected, but it's not too much. The last act works really well for the film because it continually keeps you guessing as to what's going on. We are not sure who is responsible for the events because Ferris himself doesn't know. The guessing game doesn't stop until we are told who was responsible, revealing the last piece of the puzzle and the final twist of the film.

These twists are what make this film good enough to recommend though it still has several problems with it. We had already seen the military hunting terrorists in films like "The Kingdom," which was decent, and agents doing the same in films like "Syriana," which was good, but a bit too convoluted for its own good. However, with "Body of Lies," Ridley Scott has delivered a new take on what was becoming an old story. 3/4 stars.
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Old 02-03-2009, 12:09 AM
One of Ridley Scott's weakest flicks. It's actually pretty boring and doesn't bring anything new to the table to the whole terrorism/undercover story. Leonardo Dicaprio is okay but this is far from his best work. Russell Crowe phones his performance and the overrated Mark Strong, who comes off as a second rate Andy Garcia wannabe, flat and boring. There are a moments that manage to get the pulse going with largely this movie nearly flatlines despite it being technically well made.

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Old 02-03-2009, 01:43 AM
This is one of those movies I saw and liked, but then immediately forgot about. I'd give it a 6/10 because the acting is pretty good from two of the best today, and it's a decent enough movie to watch when there's nothing else to turn to. Overall though, pretty forgettable.
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