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"Body of Lies"

Directed by Ridley Scott.
Written by William Monahan.  Based on the novel by David Ignatius.
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe, Golshifteh Farahani and Mark Strong.
Release Year:  2008
Review Date:  10/15/08


When you go see a Ridley Scott film, you expect greatness, since the guy has made at least four no-doubt-about-it classics:  "Alien", "Blade Runner", "Thelma & Louise", and "Gladiator."  My favorite war film ever, "Black Hawk Down" could be on that list, but I know a few doubters who don't love that flick as much as I do.

With "Body of Lies", you get a 20-minute so-so action film, an hour-long so-so political thriller with globetrotting plotlines, and a 30-minute bad quiet romantic drama.  Note that none of those sections are great, and that makes "Body of Lies" a film that won't be remembered as much of anything.  Scott collaborates with his new favorite actor, Russell Crowe, along with Leo DiCaprio as CIA agents tasked with finding a mad Middle Eastern bomber who is leaving his mark on tragedies in the UK and mainland Europe.  After the killer's path somehow leads to Jordan, Agent Ferris (DiCaprio) teams with the Jordanian national police and their leader, Hani Amman (Mark Strong), to track leads all over the country.  And after an alley brawl, Ferris eventually has to see a doctor (Golshifteh Farahani), who happens to be a hot female who likes to have coffee with her new love interest.

Blah.  The previews for "Body of Lies" sell its action, but literally every scene from the film's two action scenes are in the first 15 minutes.  This leaves the action fan hangin' for more, and unfortunately, it never comes.  Instead, we get to watch DiCaprio and Crowe banter over patriotism, and honor, and leaving good people behind, and making decisions in the interest of national security, blah blah blah.  This was probably a better book (naturally, it's based on a "best-selling novel"; can every book ever written really be best selling?), but the script by William Monahan feels tired very early in the film.  No surprises, no revelations about the secret dealings of the CIA or black ops groups or satellite feeds..."24" does this kind of thing better, honestly.

Despite this, the film is fairly watchable.  DiCaprio really is special as an actor, and his ability to lift this filth into mediocrity is a credit to him.  Crowe's one-liners are occasionally amusing, the two action bits are not bad, and torture sequences here make you squirm.  Things get very predictable in the end, but at least "Body of Lies" doesn't make you suffer like "Miracle at St. Anna" does by ending your misery in about 110 minutes.  Rent the video, but don't buy it!

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09