Star-studded cast, muddled plot fails to impress in ‘Body of Lies’ (Hollywood Film Review - Rating **)

October 17th, 2008 - 10:00 pm ICT by IANS  

Russell CroweFilm: “Body of Lies”; Director: Ridley Scott; Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe, Mark Strong; Rating **It’s been seven years since the September 11 attacks and five since the Iraq war began. The war on terror is unclear, confusing and too immediate to get any kind of proper perspective. The movie “Body Of Lies” doesn’t make it any easier for us to understand. It is a muddle of a movie, albeit with good intentions which, while trying to make too profound a statement, gets itself into an unnecessary mess.

The movie is populated by too many characters and there are too many strands of sub-plots to follow to create any kind of coherent reaction. It’s a shame because the stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe, along with director Ridley Scott and a fine script by William Monahan, have all been excellent in other movies.

DiCaprio does a fine job and just might be the only bright spot. Scott again falls into the trap of trying to make a profound statement and thus allowing himself to get bogged down. The script by Monahan is big let down especially since he did a great job with the Oscar winning “The Departed”.

The plot, when it actually makes sense, revolves around the American spy Roger Ferris working in Jordan even as he receives orders from his boss (Crowe) from his home in the US. Ferris is trying to catch terrorists with the help of the Jordanian security chief Hani (Mark Strong). Matters get complicated with close associates not revealing all the information, Ferris getting romantically involved with a local nurse (Golshifteh Farahani). Things get a little bit more resolved towards the end but not before a fair bit of head scratching and lack of empathy.

The characters are not allowed to be fleshed out and we find it hard to connect with them. But Dicaprio does a fine job of relaying the importance of looking at the players in this war as humans as opposed to his boss who considers everyone as pawns.

The supporting actors all give a fine performance with Mark Strong clearly making a mark. He holds his weight opposite the likes of DiCaprio and Crowe. The Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani gets few scenes and provides some refreshingly light moments. But even the sub-plot involving her in the end seems pointless.

The movie respects the situation in the Middle East and tries to express the nuance of complexity. It might have done its job unintentionally by confusing us. But it fails to make us empathise with the many innocent people who continue to be unfortunate victims.

For those looking for a well made movie anchoring itself in an increasingly complex mess hoping to learn a little bit more and at the same time being entertained, this movie will satisfy.

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