Ridley Scott yet again takes Russell Crowe under his wing, directing him in Body of Lies. This time, it’s another trip for Hollywood to the Middle East and the war on terror. While a hot news item, it’s becoming tiresome as a film base, overused and hardly entertaining anymore. Body of Lies is a victim of overuse.
Actually, that’s not the only problem with this film. Billed as Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio together, it’s anything but. Crowe is limited in screen time, pushed aside for a mass of other characters who slowly convolute the plot line, leading to confusion and unneeded complexity.
DiCaprio is a CIA operative stationed in the Middle East, hunting down a terrorist named Al-Saleem (Alon Abutbul). He’s constantly talking with his superior played by Crowe over his cell phone. The back-and-forth conversation is irritating, and their meetings seem more like a way to make up for this flaw. Rarely does Crowe need to be with DiCaprio since the now-bearded star seems to handle himself just fine without any help from Washington.
Like all films about the modern war, there are political statements made. DiCaprio screams to Crowe at one point about the effects of the war and proper way to handle things. However, Crowe is limited in his character development, making him feel like a one-note bureaucrat with little else to offer.
Scott’s direction is on display during the action scenes, but can’t do much for the static dialogue scenes. A few explosions showcase some fine effects work, breaking up the story which is otherwise a talking-head piece. Also, despite being a relatively simple “catch the bad guy” plot, it never gains any momentum, shifting gears multiple times. A romance is inserted with little purpose other than finding some closure in the end.
There are far better Middle Eastern thrillers out there, including The Kingdom and Jarhead. Body of Lies is too complex for its own good, creating a disappointing pairing of two otherwise superb actors. Hopefully the next Scott/Crowe pairing fares better than this. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Movie]
Aside from some very slight edge enhancement, this is a superior VC-1 encode from Warner. Detail is wonderful, never falling below near perfection. Sharpness likewise remains firm. Contrast is superb, giving the film that rare three-dimensional look so many discs strive for. Colors carry are bold without being over saturated. Flesh tones are spot on. [xrr rating=5/5 label=Video]
With multiple explosions, this TrueHD track should shake the house. Unfortunately, bass seems to have taken the day off, providing only a mild rumble when the bombs go off. A car chase is a nice showcase though, delivering surround action and a nice low-end shot when a rocket launcher goes off. Some minor ambiance is noticeable at street level and in crowds, but that’s only thing this one has going for it given that it’s dialogue driven. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Audio]
Extras are robust, beginning with a commentary from Ridley Scott, writer William Monahan, and book author David Ignatius. Only Scott tags along for the deleted scenes, presiding over five of them (not including his introduction), which features an alternate ending.
Actionable Intelligence is a collection of eight featurettes that total well over an hour. They’re available separately or via a picture-in-picture window. There’s a feature on Scott, the book’s author, sets, and more. It’s detailed and put together with care. Finally, there’s a collection of short interviews accessible through a confusing menu in which vast and crew discuss the film. Most of this is skippable. The disc is also BD-Live compatible. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Extras]