Sunday, March 29, 2009

Body of Lies: Grade B

Body of Lies (2008)
Russell Crowe; Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Strong. Director Ridley Scott.

This CIA spy thriller set in the middle east delivers the action and suspense we expect from Ridley Scott. DiCaprio is a field agent who has a lead to a big, bad Arab terrorist lynchpin that the CIA has not been able to find or identify. To get to this bad guy, DiCaprio must maintain the trust of the head of Jordanian intelligence, well played by Strong. However, DiCaprio’s CIA boss in Langley (Crowe) keeps meddling in the plan, disrupting the operation whenever he tries to “help,” causing breach of trust with the spymaster in Amman.

DiCaprio meets an attractive girl there, which is as good as stamping “hostage” across her forehead. There are suitable fiery explosions that blow out whole buildings, aerial surveillance drones, machine gun battles, frantic chases through crowded markets, and so on. Locations seemed real because of the lighting and city scenes, and were attractive. Sound engineering was particularly detailed. I appreciate hearing brass shell casings hit the ground. However, it was not convincing for DiCaprio and Crowe to have instantaneous, secure, and perfectly clear conversations across half the world on their cell phones (no doubt they were “special” phones) nor that CIA staff could sit omnisciently in a video paneled room counting every whisker on DiCaprio’s chin. Acting by DiCaprio was mature and convincing, and Crowe really shone as the southern-drawling, dumb-as-a-fox CIA spymaster. The movie was intellectually engaging and suitably kinetic but not thematically serious. It is just an adventure for the sake of adventure, though well-done for its genre.

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