Body of Lies – DVD Re-View

Starring:  Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Strong and Russell Crowe

Run Time:  2 Hrs 8 Mins

Plot Synopsis:   Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio)  uncovers a lead on a major terrorist leader suspected to be operating out of Jordan. When Ferris devises a plan to infiltrate his network, he must first win the backing of cunning CIA veteran Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe) and the collegial, but perhaps suspect, head of Jordanian intelligence. Although ostensibly his allies, Ferris questions how far he can really trust these men without putting his entire operation – and his life – on the line.

Ridley Scott, one of the finest directors in Hollywood, has decided to take on a culturally relevant, espionage filled action drama based on Washington Post columnist David Ignatius’ 2007 novel about a CIA operative, Roger Ferris.  Certainly you know at least a few of Scott’s previous works, which include:  Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator, Hannibal, Black Hawk Down and American Gangster. His films are nothing short of brilliant, and as such he is one of the most highly respected men in Hollywood.  His work in the science fiction genre has made him a legend.  He has been nominated for for Oscars in the Best Director category 3 times.  The man is very successful.  So when he decided to take on a project like Body of Lies, a film whose subject matter hasn’t produced a whole lot of great films, I found it quite shocking.  After I got over the initial shock, I was quite intrigued by the possibilities here.  A man with immense talent like Scott could really produce a rarity in Hollywood; a great movie about the Middle East and terrorism.  What After watching Body of Lies, I can safely say that there is no gray area here.  The quality of this film is clear-cut.

The story is a strong drama that has more than a fair share of action, suspense, and wicked cool explosions.  There is a gritty and brutal story being told throughout the film.  But we all know that a great story can only take a film so far.  To take a great story and turn it into a great movie requires talented actors and a keen directorial eye.    The film stars Leo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe; two actors that, in my opinion, are two of the finest in Hollywood.  Yes, for years DiCaprio worked and worked to get to the point he is at right now.  Look what he has become; his films are generally successful and he has garnered loads of attention from the academy and various other institutions.  He has been nominated for 3 Oscars and he has 46 nominations and 19 wins on top of that.  Clearly he has talent.  My problem with DiCaprio in the past was that I just didn’t feel he was capable of the dark, gritty,dangerous roles.  But he has since proven me wrong, and has continued his success in that area with a fantastic performance as Roger Ferris.  He plays the character to perfection.  There is a charm he exhibits, even when he is taking down terrorists.  Leo is completely capable of playing a Jason Bourne-esque, rough and tough spy type.  Where he rises above Bourne star Matt Damon is his ability to display emotion.  I’d take DiCaprio as a dramatic actor over Damon any day of the week, and maybe even as an action star (as much as I did enjoy the Bourne films), especially after seeing this movie.

Russell Crowe continues to impress me with his ability to seemingly shape-shift into roles as characters that are nothing like he is.  Not only in terms of behaviors and mannerisms, as all actors should be able to pull that off decently enough, but also in terms of his looks.  You’d hardly recognize Crowe in his role as CIA veteran Ed Hoffman.   He was the perfect counter part to DiCaprio’s Ferris.  While Ferris is somewhat of a hothead and a tough guy, Hoffman is a calm and cool mastermind who seems to know everything.   When the two were in the same scene, I found myself mesmerized by their back and forth.   Ferris is out in the trenches, doing the “dirty work” while Hoffman stays in close contact with Ferris all from the locales surrounding his home life (i.e his home, taking his kids to school, etc)  I found it quite interesting to see the dynamic between the two, how one would try to get information out of the other, without ever truly coming to a complete understanding.  They are, despite their blatant differences, similar in that each one refuses to trust the other.  How are they supposed to work together?

Ridley Scott provided audiences with a thrilling drama that will grab a hold of you and not let go until the film is over.  I couldn’t even believe how quickly the time seemed to pass as I was watching this movie.  And what better mark for determining a movie’s greatness than that?  It was masterfully filmed and edited.  This film, despite it’s relatively poor success compared to Scott’s previous films, should be considered right up there with his other films as great examples of just how brilliant Ridley Scott truly is.  He could’ve done things completely differently. Any other director might have chosen to ramp up the action, sacrificing intelligence and plot development for entertainment.  The story of espionage could have been twisted into a convoluted and indecipherable mess.  But Scott did what he does best; he made all the right decisions.  Admittedly, the plot is complex; filled with layers and sub-layers, deceit and treachery, But Scott doesn’t allow you to lose sight of the overall picture.  He tells a wonderfully entertaining story, in a brilliantly subtle way, without trying to bash the point into audiences.

The bottom line is that Body of Lies is an amazing movie that you won’t want to miss.  If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend you pick this one up.  I picked up the two-disc special edition with a digital copy, something that I find quite appealing when I go DVD shopping.  There is the standard set of special features on this edition.  It is interesting to see the behind the scenes mini-documentary included, and the deleted scenes were an added bonus.  I struggled to find anything negative about this film.  I guess, if I had to say something negative about the film, it would be that it has very little replay value.  Once you discover what has happened after the first viewing, it is just not as enjoyable on subsequent go-arounds.  I’d take that into consideration if you head out to find this, but at the very least, this is a memorable film that people should see.

  • Metallicat79

    This was oneof thise films that you hear about, and want to go see, but then all of the sudden it’s overshadowed and eventually forgotten about comepletly, I remeber seeing the trailer for this and wanting to go out and see it when it was released and then along came Star Trek and Watchmen and Wolverine and a plethora of others. I remeber seeing it on the DVD rack last week trying to figure out where I had heard of it before and what exactly it was.
    Thanks for the refresher Jon, I will be sure to go out and pick this one up.

  • Jon Stephens

    Definitely worth your money, one of Scott’s finer works.

  • metallicat79

    That actaully says a lot, “Scotss finer works” considering what he has done to date.