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Body of Lies

August 24, 2010

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

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Synopsis: A CIA agent, on the ground in Jordan, finds his mission complicated by the politics back home and shady characters in the local secret service.

Review: Is the Iraq War (and the “War on Terror” in general) an unfilmable entity – at least by conventional Hollywood standards? The conflict represents a different challenge from the more comprehensible paradigms of the previous Vietnam War which proved such enticing fodder for subsequent filmmakers both artistically and commercially. Maybe it is the infinitely more complex, ‘global’, informational, technological, and non-militaristic aspects that make the present war that much more inscrutable. Anyway, Ridley Scott is the latest filmmaker to ‘dip his oar in’ with his hallmark bombast, and he is well-served by the current king of “intense” character roles – Leonardo DiCaprio – to tell the story. In many ways, the film is an admirable attempt and highlights well the ambiguities of dealing at ground-level with the various complex issues inherent in the Middle East. Scott also nicely conveys the conceptual absurdity and blindness of high-tech satellite observation that accords the US almost complete militaristic might, yet fails to fathom those more intrinsic, sociological problems. Stephen Gaghan’s Syriana covered somewhat similar ground a couple of years previously, and as a sidenote both films make interesting use of Mark Strong as a menacing and thematically important Arab. Ultimately, Scott struggles to completely forgo the didacticism of Hollywood cinema in lumbering the narrative with a highly tenuous local love interest to affect DiCaprio’s character some pathos. Equally arcane is the whole concept of Russell Crowe’s CIA bigwig as a man constantly in the ear of DiCaprio’s harried operative, while contrastingly living his comfortable, domestic life out in DC. (November 2008)

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