Sunday, November 23, 2008

BODY OF LIES - much like BLINDNESS, the Big Idea is way too obvious and ill-developed

Ridley Scott thinks his latest film, BODY OF LIES, has failed at the Box Office, because we, the movie-going public, are superficial assholes who'd rather watch MY BEST FRIEND'S GIRL than be schooled about the War on Terror. Now, he may or may not be right about the public's desire to spend £15 hard-earned cash to be depressed into oblivion, but that doesn't change the fact that even by the standards of the genre, BODY OF LIES is a weak movie. SYRIANA failed through vaulting ambition; RENDITION was earnest but poorly made; perhaps the Meryl Streep/Tom Cruise in LIONS FOR LAMBS came closest to creating an interesting and intelligent discussion of these issues. BODY OF LIES never gets close to the dramatic tension and sheer brilliance of the best scenes in LIONS FOR LAMBS.

There are two big problems with this movie. First off, the point it's trying to make is blindingly obvious to everyone except, it would seem, the Bush and Blair administrations. People on the ground know far better what's actually going on than the policy-making big-wigs in Washington and Whitehall. Moreover, we'd have saved ourselves a whole bunch of heartache if someone had actually bothered to, you know, check some facts about WMD, and just Be Competent. Frankly, I don't need Ridley Scott to tell me this.

The second problem is that while Ridley Scott really wants to make a serious film about the War on Terror, his best intentions are trumped by his instincts to make yet another slick but unimaginative and pompous action flick. So yes, we do have two fine actors - Russell Crowe and Leo DiCaprio - facing off about how to bring terrorists to justice. Crowe's character embodies the banality of evil - ordering strikes while picking up groceries. DiCaprio is the conscience of the engaged liberal. There could've been a really great movie here. But instead we see good dialogue cut short by set piece action sequences.

So, basically, I think BODY OF LIES is a waste of time, with one exception: Mark Strong's superb, scene-stealing performance as the head of Jordanian intelligence - the man who runs rings around the CIA.

BODY OF LIES is on release in the USA, Australia, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Thailand, Canada, Indonesia, India, Russia, South Korea, Egypt, Serbia, France, Spain, Belgium, Germany, Greece, Israel, the Netherlands, Portugal, Singapore, Austria, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Poland, Switzerland and the UK. It opens next week in Argentina, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Brazil, Denmark, Estonia and Finland. It opens in Sweden on December 5th, in Venezuela on December 19th and on Japan on December 20th.

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