Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Body of Lies

2008 political/war thriller from director Ridley Scott (whose been doing awesome movies for decades) and writer Bill Monahan (who hasn't done a ton, but wrote The Departed) that follows three (but mostly one) types of characters in the war on terror going on in the middle east. One is a high level agent, who's on the ground, in the thick of it getting his hands quite dirty (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), another is a high level counterintelligence agency chief from a Jordanian agency (played wonderfully by British actor Mark Strong) and a high level chief from the CIA (played by Russel Crowe). What is very interestign about this flick is that it shows a view of the current war from a perspective that hasn't been well portrayed in films so far, in that it shows the war from the perspective of the people who are really pulling the strings. And here's the thing, no one trusts anyone and no one is really working together all that well. In other words, all three are both good guys and bad guys. They're not all bad, but none of them are all that good either. You might like any of the three working for you, but you wouldn't want any of them dating your daughter. And this is, in a way, a comment on the world's present "good guys" in the actual global conflict and not just those from the movie. The same goes for how it's played out as well. The missions frequently have more good intentions than effective or clean results and the conflicts are all over the place. Blink during this movie and you'll suddenly have gone from Turkey to London to Iraq. The movie does a very good job of showing (at least what's likely) the realities of this present global conflict. It's not about battles or territories, it's about competing interests and alot of cat and mouse. At no time in the film do we feel like "if we could just do X, or get X, then this will all be over." Instead, it's alot of just doing what you can and moving on when you can't. There's no time to think, in other words. There's not alot of story or character development but there's not on purpose (similar, in a way, to Scott's Black Hawk Down). You're adrift at sea, and now you have to figure out what the heck to do to survive. I liked this movie, enjoyed watching it, felt like it added a good perspective to the discussion, but I didn't love it. If you recently saw Burn After Reading, you'll likely laugh now and then during this movie b/c the music and visuals are so in line with the traditional (insert cliche) sights and sounds of these sorts of movies. In other words, the stuff from this movie that's original is all macro, the micro stuff is all pretty typical. It can feel a bit preachy at times as well. What makes it not a total snore though are the performances of the three leads. All three give detailed, nuanced, natural performances. It never really felt like the leads were just skating by. I'm not ashamed to say I've always liked Leo and this flick is a good example of why. The language is a little harsh and the violence is very realistic, so if those things turn you off you may wanna steer clear, but if you're looking for an interesting, global spy flick that's more like Syrriana than the Bond movies, then check it out. Otherwise, wait for the rental.