Friday, December 12, 2008

Body of Lies

The thing that surprised me about Body of Lies is that despite the pedigree of Ridley Scott and Leonardo DiCaprio it's actually a really, really conventional terrorism thriller. The trailer, for the first time in the history of movie trailers, actually deceives to make the movie look more complicated and nuanced than it really is, like it's about CIA corruption and Russell Crowe is the bad guy or something. It's really not; Crowe and Leo have a tense working relationship but the bad guys are Islamic terrorists in the Middle East and the main plot of the movie is Leo infiltrating and compromising their cell to get them all dead, and that's it. There's no anti-war message or anything and it could be easily be taken for right-wing jerk off fodder without much argument.

And I say good. I saw another terrorism thriller this year, Traitor with Don Cheadle, that tried to be supremely deep and have a powerful message about "not all Muslims are terrorists," "terrorists have motivation worth examining," "terrorists are people too," and so on and so forth, but not being a drool-soaked idiot I already knew all these things and the constant appeals to liberal guilt just felt heavy-handed and had me rolling my eyes. Sometimes you just want to see some terrorists get deaded and that's what Body of Lies is, albeit with pretty good acting and production values and a light political gloss.

A lot of the other reviews remarked on the density of the plot and said they struggled to follow the movie. I don't know if all movie critics are retarded or what but there's absolutely nothing difficult to follow about the story - there's a lot of technobabble and subtitled Arabic dialogue, I guess, but this isn't fucking Syriana; there's an evil terrorist leader who's obviously a stand-in for bin Laden and Leo spies and pulls some strings to infiltrate them, that's it. Like Traitor, the action scenes are relatively few and far between, quick, violent, and vaguely Bourne flavored.

I definitely respect the path Leo DiCaprio has taken with his career. After Titanic he could have sat on his balls or done any stupid crap he wanted but (thanks largely to Martin Scorsese) he's stuck with quality material like Gangs of New York, Catch Me If You Can, The Departed, Blood Diamond. He's grown as a performer and made a solid secret agent here. No other performance in the movie is memorable, including Russell Crowe's strictly workmanlike coldhearted CIA director.

However, I did mildly enjoy it. There's some spying, there's some gunfights, there's some explosions. It has a dusty, dirty, gritty feel in the cinematography and production design that makes you feel the Middle East location. If you really wanna watch a movie about terrorism, you could do much worse.

3 Stars out of 5

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