Ridley Scott Blog A Thon- Body of Lies
William Johnson after his piece on the Gladiator and A Good Year, follows up with another piece on Scott’s conspiracy-spy thriller set in the Middle East. Again Scott’s attempt to do a Syriana falls flat on it’s face. Good in parts but overall disappointing. Check out the original here at Secure Immaturity.
Before it’s humble release on video, I can’t tell you much about Body of Lies. I barely remember a trailer and though I am an uber fan of Russell Crowe and staunch admirer of Ridley Scott (hell, it might as well be a Ridley Scott/Russell Crowe website, this) I didn’t find the time to go see it because I also couldn’t find a theater to see it in. From what I saw, it seemed like one of those films that was slapped together quickly. . .as if the actor’s schedules allowed them to fit in a picture before moving on to something better. If Body of Lies wasn’t in the new release section of Blockbuster, I wouldn’t have known what year it came out or, frankly, if it even existed.
Because Body of Lies falls well below the popular radar and, frankly, it should stay there. While being disappointed in Ridley Scott is not necessarily a new occurrence (if anyone has seen Matchstick Men and knows me then they know I hate it immensely), being disappointed in Russell Crowe is a completely new feeling. I can’t say he is bad in Body of Lies (he once again is acting like Mr. Crowe, method actor, gaining 63 pounds and such) but the film spends no time observing his massive talent. The pain and suffering the man probably went to to ‘become’ a suburban CIA agent is utilized in odd and limited ways.
Plus, and this might explain that, the movie belongs to Leonardo DiCaprio who, oddly, seems to be ditching Martin Scorsese here (though wearing full Scorsese costume and acting the exact same way as he did in The Departed) to invade the Scott/Crowe connection. The movie doesn’t fail because DiCaprio is the lead but. . .it seems like with a greater talent like Crowe in the lead, the film might have been better. As it stands, Body of Lies is kind of dull and leads to an ending that is DOA. Oh, and it takes its sweet ass time to get there too.
DiCaprio plays Roger Ferris, a way-deep undercover CIA agent situated in high risk places like Jordan and Iraq. Though operating by his own rules and by his own gut, every now and then Ferris receives cold hearted instructions from Ed Hoffman (Crowe), a fat, calculating suburban rabble rouser. Hoffman runs the show whilst eating cereal and pretending to care about his kids, oblivious (or careless), to the danger he puts his agents in. So involved is he that he often lets multiple operations intertwine to the detriment of many people’s lives. But it’s all for the greater, American good.
A new terrorist cell is wreaking havoc on Europe and has its eyes on the United States. Based in Jordan, and run by a ruthless leader named Al-Saleem, Ferris, with the aid of both Hoffman and Jordanian intelligence head Hani Salaam (Mark Strong), must once again infiltrate the inner workings of the cell to stop the reign of terror that is cropping up and threatens the US of A.
The film is pretty straightforward: Scott establishes that Ferris is capable and scrappy by showing one of his earlier dealings with militant terrorism in Jordan. As we are slowly introduced to the characters Ferris gets integrated into the spy world of Jordan to stop our baddy. The film’s strongest points, interspersing Ferris with Hoffman over the telephone in drastically different situations, is underused. There is something powerful about a cold hearted man (Hoffman) watching his kid’s soccer game while discussing the assassination of an innocent man who would blow Ferris’ cover. But alas, Scott decides to unite the two talking heads 40 minutes into the movie and the dynamic and inherent tension is lost.
And while the spy aspects are fine and sometimes stressful (not to mention gruesome. . .anyone with fingers will wince at the end) the film adds a completely mind boggling love story. It serves no purpose but to add a female to the cast and its existence betrays the very detailed characterization of Ferris. Ferris does really stupid things because he fell in love for a few minutes. . .this goes against everything his character is about in the first hour or so of the movie. While Crowe is underused, though, his character suffers no defamation: he is pretty unlikable from beginning to end and never changes his emotional suit.
The acting is fine (I can’t find superlatives for this film besides ‘fine). DiCaprio tries really hard but you can’t help but feel he is stuck in The Departed. I like the kid but when will he stop doing movies where he slowly gets angry and then has screaming fits for 50 minutes. The guy is intense but part of him has never lost the squeak of puberty and when he gets angry all the time it loses its effectiveness and comes off as silly. How many movies has he been in where he is subdued and reflective. The character of Ferris may have benefited from this approach as opposed to DiCaprio Serving A.
It is so rare for Ridley Scott to put out something so blah. Of the four Scott/Crowe collaborations this one is definitely the least successful and in terms of Scott’s total filmography, I am hard pressed to find something worse then Body of Lies on his resume other then Matchstick Men (GI Jane? Maybe? I dunno). I can’t say I expected much beyond the normal expectations of the cast and crew but, regardless, it sucks to see such a fine production get boggled down by simple things like plot and impact. The movie literally leaves no impact on your emotional soul. . .thus you should probably save yourself the two hours.