You can have two great actors, a fantastic director and a weighty story but still make an average film. Body of Lies is the perfect example of this. The two leads, Leonardo Di Caprio and Russell Crowe, are stars that would attract any number of people to a film on their names alone. Di Caprio is fantastic in The Departed and Inception and Crowe is equally as good in Gladiator or 3.10 to Yuma. With two stars this big attached, you’d expect the film to be of a very high quality.
The same with the director. Ridley Scott directs Body of Lies, the same man who directed Alien, Prometheus, Gladiator and American Gangster. Combine him with the two leading stars and I expected a film that would be intricate, action-filled but intelligent with two fantastic performances from the two great leads.
For the most part, the film is exactly that. The story is about an “operative” who works in Middle East (Di Caprio) who is trying to find a terrorist cell which are planting bombs all over Europe. He takes his orders from the hard-nosed, cold-blooded Crowe but also works for the Head of Security in Jordan (played brilliantly by Mark Strong.) The story is a mix of double-crossing, action, “who do you trust” and with a little bit of politics thrown in too. It’s not a throwaway film, it’s not a lightweight or a “one more Iraq” film either.
It’s just that it feels like its going through the motions. It didn’t blow me away. The two lead actors are fantastic in their respective performances, as are all the cast that supports them. Russell Crowe even put on weight to play the retired Langley operative but why he bothered I’m not entirely sure. Di Caprio throws himself into the action and has to do much more than Crowe but he hardly looks like he’s stretching his acting muscles either.
Scott, as director, does a great job. As you’d expect from him, the scenes look fantastic, London, Argentina and the Middle East setting are all accurate, fantastically shot and we get a real idea of the locations. It’s hardly a film that would test his directing skills either though. He isn’t creating an atmospheric, scary, tense environment, like in Alien or Prometheus nor is he recreating 1970s America, like American Gangster.
The story is very good. I was never bored or lost. I wanted to know how it ended and was completely satisfied with the conclusion but it wasn’t gripping. It wasn’t so full of twists and shocks that I was stunned by moments or tricked by “red herrings.” It just felt like a decent story, very well told.
The reason I think I was slightly disappointed with Body of Lies is because of the expectation I had given the film. The two leads, in my opinion, can produce fantastic performances and to have a film where they actually get to play off each other and be part of the same story seemed like too good an opportunity to miss. Add a brilliant director like Ridley Scott and the film becomes something worth seeing. Unfortunately, it felt, as good as Body of Lies was, and it is a good film, it was wasted on the three talents that were involved in making it.
Overall, I enjoyed Body of Lies but considering Di Caprio, Crowe and Scott were involved, I wanted much more from the film. The acting is good, the directing is good and the story is engaging but none of it will stay with me much and the film is very forgettable. It’s a shame that these three people, all who have incredible talent in film, couldn’t have put their skills together to produce something much more worthy or incredible.
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)