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Body of Lies (2008)

Trust no one. Deceive everyone.

Directed by:

Ridley ScottRidley Scott

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 128 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15

Country: United States

Body of Lies is a good, satisfying drama/action movie in a sub-genre that has had a surprisingly low success rate—terrorism. Given the current political climate, movies about the Middle East are particularly timely, but maybe it’s that timeliness that keeps audiences away for the most part—maybe it’s all a little too close for comfort, and people are really just looking for escape in their entertainment these days. That’s a shame, really, because even though it’s gritty and realistic in its execution, director Ridley Scott’s latest is still engaging and entertaining, never showing its political leanings by choosing instead to present the idea that it’s the people, not the politics, that create and defuse international upheaval all around the world.

C.I.A. guy Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio) is hard at work on a mission in the Middle East when he and his handler Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe) figure out there’s some shady terrorist action going on in Jordan. Ferris and Hoffman are aided in their quest by the country’s Head of Intelligence (Mark Strong), but it’s not long before loyalties are tested and Ferris learns he can never be too sure who he can trust.

Ridley Scott is one of those rare directors who seems to be able to dive right in to any genre and make ticket-price-worthy film. Gladiator? Aliens? In this sorrowfully underwatched thriller, Scott manages to blend intrigue, politics, action, character development, and even romance into a robust finished product that grabs our attention from the beginning and holds on, making us actually care what happens—not always a given in the average political thriller. DiCaprio, Crowe, and Strong all bring something extra to their time onscreen, with special kudos going to Leo for continuing to become a pretty convincing badass. The best thing, though, that Scott pulls off is giving this richly layered story room to grow without allowing it to become overwhelming—there are shifting allegiances and bombs and guns and quick talk everywhere, but even in its complexity, the plot remains clear, and we’re never distracted with “So … what just happened?” thoughts. Overall, even with its relevant political locale and all, “politics” per se give way to just pure story, so there’s no persistent feeling that you’re being fed a line of propaganda—one government isn’t “evil” or “bad,” but people certainly can be.

It's Got: A clear but layered story, Good stuff from its main guys.

It Needs: To not have been lumped in with all the other Middle East movies.

Alternatives:

Kingdom of Heaven, The Departed, The Kingdom, Three Kings

Summary

Ridley Scott plus Russell Crowe plus Leonardo DiCaprio plus political intrigue and action equal a thoroughly engaging thriller that will hopefully find more success on DVD than it did in theaters.

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