Like my book reviews site, these are movie reviews I write for entertainment purposes only. These are just my reviews and my opinions. They are not endorsed by Blogger or any movie studios or anyone else. So there. I borrowed my scoring system from the Metacritic site, which does not imply an endorsement from them, although I think they do have a very nice website. I convert the 1-100 scores into 1-4 stars, essentially it works like this:

1 star = 25 points
2 stars = 50 points
3 stars = 75 points
4 stars = 100 points

And then if something falls about halfway between, then I'll give it an added half-star.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Body of Lies

I went back to the regular theater this week (not by choice so much as the second-run theater didn't have anything at the time I wanted) and watched a movie probably soon to be playing at the second-run theater: Body of Lies. Despite a great award-winning director in Ridley Scott and his favorite award-winning actor Russell Crowe along with Leonardo DiCaprio, Body of Lies pretty much landed with a thud at the box office. In watching it I could see why: as interesting as the plot twists are, the movie never really fully engages me.

The complicated story revolves around two CIA agents: Roger Ferris (DiCaprio) is the man on the ground in Iraq while Ed Hoffman (Crowe) is his boss lounging around back in Virginia--or his backyard, kitchen, a soccer game, etc. Ferris and Hoffman are trying to catch a shadowy terrorist known as Al Saleem, who's behind a string of bombings in Europe. Their first lead takes Ferris to Amman, Jordan, where he enlists the aid of the Jordanian spy chief Hanni (Mark Strong, a dead ringer for an Arab-looking Andy Garcia) who is sophisticated on the outside and cold as ice underneath.

Things go sour in Jordan largely due to Hoffman's micromanaging from afar, nearly getting Ferris killed. But the good part is that he meets a pretty Iranian/Palestinian nurse named Aisha and falls in love. With the cultural differences and Ferris' job, their relationship seems doomed from the start.

While recuperating, Ferris hatches a risky scheme to flush Al Saleem out into the open that will put himself and Aisha at risk. That's as far as I'll go so I don't spoil the rest of the plot's twists and turns.

These twists and turns are what make the movie watchable even as all the characters except for Hanni are dull. The problem is little background is given on anyone. I suppose that's to be expected to a certain extent for spy movies as they're supposed to be mysterious. By the end, though, all you know is that Hoffman has a family he sort of pays attention to, Ferris is divorced, and Aisha has a meddling sister. There's not enough there to make the characters really come to life, so you don't care so much if they live or die. The relationship between Ferris and Aisha seems especially forced as there seems little reason for them to get together except that maybe Ferris is drawn to women playing hard to get.

As well while there are some decent action scenes, there's nothing quite as exciting as Bourne or Bond. I'm not sure how much the politics involved in the movie reflect reality, though I wonder if some CIA agent wouldn't watch Ferris' scheme and think, "Hey, why didn't we think of that?" Maybe part of the reason this movie didn't draw better is that it' still too soon for movies involving Iraq and Arab terrorists unless there's a superhero involved like Iron Man.

To me the end was the most disappointing part of the film. While the rest of the movie's plot was smart and clever enough, the end falls back on some old movie cliches. I can't explain much better without giving things away except to say a less happy ending would have probably been better--at least to me.

As I said though, the plot is interesting enough with its twists and turns and there are some decent action scenes. It's smarter than a thriller like Eagle Eye, neither of which will probably be in the first-run theaters much longer. See it while you can! Or wait for the DVD.

That is all.

(My score: 2.5 stars)
(Metacritic score: 58)

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