Ridley Scott’s Body of Lies is a reliable piece of filmmaking exemplary of the great director’s ability to make a tensely watch-able film, even if said film isn’t his best work. Such is the case with this Leonardo DiCaprio-Russell Crowe-led action-thriller that focuses on the post-Iraqi invasion conflict. DiCaprio’s Roger Ferris is left with those little pieces of death that have proven so much more dangerous after the old regime was toppled by U.S. forces, and he seems fine with it.More at home is he in the Middle East because control always seems to be within his grasp. It’s when that control is threatened by the meddling of Washington, D.C., bureaucrats that he finds it difficult to function.
Ferris is one of the good guys. He works with Middle Eastern officials as they trail a deadly Osama Bin Laden-type that wants nothing more than Jihad (or senseless murder) for the millions of people trying to get on with their lives and perhaps make better ones for themselves. The film is fair in its portrayal of Middle Easterners. Much attention is given to level-headed, family-driven, loyal Arabs, despite the fact the villain’s nationality is one and the same. It could have been very lopsided, showing all Muslims as radicals, or for that matter, all Muslims as peace-loving hippies that our Imperialist government is picking on. It does neither.
Luckily for viewers, Body of Lies understands it’s not going to change the world, so it doesn’t try to with some moralistic, idiotic message. It aspires to be a solid action film in a post-9/11 world, and for once, does things right. It’s a film for those in the middle that can see on both sides of the political fence. It’s also a film for people, who love to watch things get blown up. Russell Crowe shares top billing here as Ed Hoffman, Washington bureaucrat, and while it’s not fair to say he is a secondary character, he does take a back seat through much of the film. His antics fuel Ferris’ righteous indignation at what is going on domestically, but his presence is more often felt than seen.
Fret not. The film is stronger because of it. Once relationships between Roger and his Middle Eastern colleagues are explored more thoroughly, the film heats up. And while the third act is not quite as captivating as the second, it does enough to hold things together and leave viewers with a satisfied movie-going experience.
Crystal clear and razor sharp, the 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation is just what the doctor ordered for action film fans. Middle East sets sparkle under intense heat and golden brown imagery. An explosion at night could easily double as a high-dollar matte painting in a swanky art gallery. No grain or imperfections, as you would expect from a modern action film with superior production values. Zero disappointments!
English, Spanish, French, speakers? You all get a clanging 5.1 audio track that whizzes and bangs at just the right moments. Background voices, whether on the dirty streets of the Middle East or in the urban environs of Washington, D.C., assume just the right balance with your speakers and the main action. Set-pieces amp up the energy a bit and volume remains consistently high throughout. A terrific mix!
It’s difficult to be excited about the prospects of another action-thriller or war drama set in the Middle East? Hasn’t the country had enough of it? But if you’re going to watch something along these lines, and you haven’t yet had your fill of our involvement overseas (or on the evening news), Body of Lies makes for a hell of a good time. Warner Brothers has done a terrific job with this disc, but if you want special features, you’ll have to fork out a few extra dollars for the special edition.