While not always the most profitable director, Ridley Scott has provided us with some of the greatest cinematic tales in history. Gladiator is undoubtedly one of his best, but last year’s American Gangster far surpassed expectations. Unfortunately that buildup was transferred to Body of Lies, Scott’s latest film which didn’t do too well with critics or with box office receipts. Though the film eventually recouped its entire budget overseas alone, domestically the espionage thriller didn’t fare so well.
The CIAs hunt is on for the mastermind of a wave of terrorist attacks. Roger Ferris (DiCaprio) is the agencies man on the ground, moving from place to place, scrambling to stay ahead of ever-shifting events. An eye in the sky a satellite link watches Ferris. At the other end of that real-time link is the CIAs Ed Hoffman (Crowe), strategizing events from thousands of miles away. And as Ferris nears the target, he discovers trust can be just as dangerous as it is necessary for survival. Director Ridley Scott orchestrates heart-pounding action sequences and plunges viewers into a bold spy thriller for our time.
The trailers for this film really didn’t tell you much and even after watching the film I can barely summarize what it was about. Either elements were underplayed or overplayed, I’m not sure, as for the most part the film wants to be about CIA operatives and the methods they use, yet we then delve into a kind of love story with DiCaprio’s character which takes up more of the film than one would be led to believe. As a whole it’s a solid film, but the construction of it seems so all over the place than it’s hard to really pinpoint what it aspires to be exactly.
Take for instance the sequences with Crowe’s character. We often see him talking to DiCaprio, who is knee-deep in the field duties, while Crowe is seen shuffling his kids off to school or sitting in his office, safe and sound back in the States. Only then we see Crowe’s character next to DiCaprio and whatnot, so while it’s obvious he can jet all over the world to be where he needs to be, we don’t really have an idea of his level of authority (although he apparently has the ear of the President, so that’s something).
Essentially the film is boiled down to the line from the trailer: “How do you expect me to run an operation, when you’re running a side operation.” There’s really nothing more to the film than that; it’s a bunch of organizations trying to do different things at the same time involving the same people and it all inevitably gets screwed up. I’m still not entirely sure how the film manages to wrap itself up, as the plot involving Hani (Mark Strong) seems to come back out of dormancy to tie up the film.
Even through the slight confusion and the shocking lack of substance in the film, however, I found myself compelled to watch it. I mean I was really into it, for reasons I can barely describe. The entire film rests on the shoulders of Crowe and DiCaprio and those two alone, through their interactions with one another and through the interactions they have with the rest of the cast, make the film worth watching. I can name more of their sequences alone than I can individual plot points that moved the story along; the two of them are such strong actors that they could almost work entirely without a plot, as the actions they take throughout the film is never not entertaining.
I wish I could comment on more about the film, but the rest of it is pretty generic. Some genuinely painful sequences of torture are depicted and there’s some worthwhile firefights and explosions to be had, but for the most part the film doesn’t require too much attention to be paid (or maybe it does and that’s why I got slightly befuddled with the ending) as the actors keep your attention on them for most of it.
Overall while the films plot may not say or do much out of the ordinary from other government based thrillers, the actors are what will bring you to this film and keep your attention. DiCaprio and Crowe’s performances alone make this film worth seeing and as such this one comes Recommended.
Body of Lies arrives on Blu-ray in a two-disc Elite case (second disc is the digital copy) with a cardboard o-ring mimicking the jacket art below it. Inside the case is a set of inserts detailing steps necessary for BD-Live functionality and the code for the digital copy. The film auto-starts, so no need for much of a menu system, although keep in mind that it defaults to the DD5.1 track, so those of you with the ability to decode TrueHD, make sure you toggle the audio, either via the pop-up menu or with the audio button on the remote.
Video for the film arrives in a VC-1 encoded 1080p 2.4:1 transfer that is impeccable. From the early sequences of the desert or the interior bits at Hani’s home or the bits in America, everything about the film is perfectly lit and remarkably clean and clear. Some grain is present, but nothing out of the ordinary and overall the film is a fantastic visual presentation. I hesitate to call this film reference quality since there are no single shots that stunned me enough to say “this is why I watch Blu-ray”, but it’s still a strong enough film, visually, that it looks great on the screen.
The included Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track is forceful, with more than enough bass during the firefights and rocket launch type sequences, while also having a strong front channel array with the amount of dialogue (always peppered with F-bombs, it seems) coming through clean and clear. Also included are DD5.1 English, French, Spanish and Portuguese tracks, as well as English, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles.
There aren’t many extras for this film to check out, but what’s here is worthwhile. First up is a series of Focus Points: Actionable Intelligence: Deconstructing Body of Lies – nine total, ranging from 6 to 14 minutes each. These are available to view separately or as pop-ups during the film itself. There are also some BD-Live features planned, but as of this writing there was nothing on there to view (except a trailer for the film).
Next up are a series of Additional Scenes (14:43, 1080p) with an introduction and optional commentary by director Ridley Scott. The Interactive Debriefing (nine total, 1-3 minutes each) interview Scott, DiCaprio, and Crowe about their three select topics of the film. Finally there is a Commentary with director Ridley Scott, Screenwriter William Monohan and Original Novel Author David Ignatius. The track is informative and lively, as the three men have a lot to talk about and the inclusion of the original author is a nice bonus in terms of insight into the films story.
Overall a bit light on extras (unless the BD-Live area is loaded, which I doubt), but still a fantastic film. While owning it may be a bit much for casual viewers, it is still well worth checking out and as such this release comes Recommended.
Body of Lies arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on February 17th.