Body of Lies **
Directed by Ridley Scott
Written by William Monahan, based on the novel by David Ignatius
Leonardo DiCaprio as Roger Ferris
Russell Crowe as Ed Hoffman
Mark Strong as Hani
Golshifteh Farahani as Aisha
Oscar Isaac as Bassam
Rated R for strong violence including some torture, and for language throughout
The operative word in describing "Body of Lies" that it is plays it safe every step of the way. Director Ridley Scott plays it safe. DiCaprio plays it safe. Crowe plays it safe. Even William Monahan, who wrote the screenplay, plays it safe. It's simply an unnesscary film to be made and to see. It's not dull, and it does hold attention for most of its running time, but there is no need to see a movie that has no ambition behind its creation.
This continues a long strand of a love it or hate it relationship that I have with Ridley Scott. I have seen about eight of his movies, and from them the only two masterpieces that I'm able to find are "Blade Runner" and "Matchstick Men." The only other film on the list that I remotely liked was "A Good Year." The rest run by a special Ridley Scott formula. I can appriciate Ridley when he is doing something a little different, and if you look at "Matchstick Men" and "A Good Year" alongside films like "Black Hawk Down' or "Gladiator," its quite interesting to note that he directed them. But "Body of Lies" seemed like a paycheck job-a quickie just to get something out on the heels of the very successful (but very bad) "American Gangster" from last year. The same goes for the actors-DiCaprio who does his "Departed" style acting (and has me looking that much more forward to "Revolutionary Road" at the end of the year where he seems to actually have some challenge. Crowe does his typical work. And even William Monahan crafts a crime thriller that just seems to retrend old ideas and themes. I wish he would move on from the genre and explore something new.
The film has a complex plot, one that I won't exactly get into at great length, as it moves very quickly along with new revelations occuring almost constantly. It does hold attention, but at times becomes muddled. DiCaprio plays Roger Ferris, who is part of a CIA operation led by Ed Hoffman (Crowe). While Ed works in the comfort of Langley, watching Ferris on large satellite images everywhere he looks, nearly eating in every shot and usually with a headpiece in his ear, Roger goes from country to country doing the ground work. They are now going after a terrorist Al-Saleem, and create a partnership with the head of the Jordan Agency, Hani. And Roger wants to keep everything out of the way of his love interest, Aisha, who works as a nurse in Jordan.
I did like the details that the script covers, and the complexity and layers of the plot are a bit of a positive towards William Monahan. But as much as I love "Matchstick Men" to the point of near-obsession, I am beginning to realize that Ridley Scott just isn't really a very good director. He has fallen into a certain formula that does not work no matter how many times I watch one of his movies. And continuing with the relationship theme that he started in "American Gangster," another film with high hopes that failed by playing it safe, he has created a duo of films nearly identical to one another, and that being a bad thing. There are two types of DiCaprio's-the more human and painful one, and the more violent and active one. While he blended both perfectly in "The Departed," here he makes his choice. But he isn't exactly given a character to work with. Crowe seems to think that gaining fifty pounds is a substitute for acting, and he goes from scene to scene appeasing Ridley and also not breaking any barriers.
Perhaps with more ambition, "Body of Lies" could have been a more intricate piece of work, but Scott seems to think that his success over the years (although I'm confused at, as his best works are his most underrated) is enough for him to churn out these second rate films. Many will disagree, as Scott is beloved by several film buffs out there, but he needs to go back to making interesting films again-films that I am surprised he is attempting to do, but I am happy that he did.