Friday, 20 March 2009

Body of Lies

Lowdown: Ridley Scott takes on the War on Terror.
Review:
When examining Ridley Scott’s body of work, the word that comes to my mind is standard deviation. While the average quality of his films is relatively high, the guy did manage to come up with tour de forces like Blade Runner on one hand and boring stuff like American Gangster on the other. Let’s face it, Ridley Scott does not follow the six sigma philosophy. Question is, which way is the standard deviation pointing at with Body of Lies, Scott’s latest? Sadly, my impression is the latter.
Body of Lies examines the morality and the culture clashes involved in the War on Terror. Leonardo DiCaprio is our hero for the duration of the film, a CIA operative whose edge comes from mingling with his enemies and local allies by using their ways and “forgetting” his (which mostly comes down to avoiding the use of technology). DiCaprio is handed the task of bringing down a specific Al Qaeda gang that’s rampaging through Europe (for the record, while Body of Lies was shot in Morocco, it’s all set up in the Middle East).
Contrasting DiCaprio is Russell Crowe, DiCaprio’s operative in the USA. Crowe spends the entire film glued to his mobile phone’s ear piece and managing the world while running around the daily errands like getting his children to school and attending to his child’s football match. The symbolism here is too obvious for me to spend more time on it.
As the plot thickens, Body of Lies turns out to be a thriller / action / espionage flick. It really is thrilling, but the catch is that you constantly witness events taking place yet find yourself unable to figure out exactly what took place. While this is often the case with films trying to create a sense of suspense, somewhere in the middle of watching Body of Lies’ more than two hours of duration you realize that you are never going to be able to make out what is going on. I guess it is an intentional effort on behalf of the film to demonstrate there are no good sides and bad sides to the war on terror and that everyone is just selfishly acting in their own interest while turning a blind eye to the effects of their selfish acts. Film wise, however, the end result is that while Body of Lies is thrilling to watch it did leave me in a rather confused and, to some extent, annoyed state of mind.
Some would say “wow”, what a mighty achievement Scott had achieved here; I say that Scott has had himself a miss here, creating a film that is not substantially different to others (e.g., The Kingdom).
Abused scene: Throughout the film we have the big brother looking over events back in USA headquarters through flying drones. At first it’s interesting, but as the film went along I thought they were over-milking the drone.
Technical assessment: A good Blu-ray production even if the colors are a bit confused from time to time. The Dolby TrueHD soundtrack is good (yet not excellent), but why the hell does the disc default to old style Dolby Digital instead?
Overall: Nice but no cigar. 3 out of 5 stars.

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