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Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe, Mark Strong, Michael Gambon

Director: Ridley Scott

Screenplay: William Monahan, David Ignatius

Cinematography: Alexander Witt

Original Music: Marc Streitenfeld

Running Time: 128 Mins. 

Ridley Scott, a consistently good director, in fact much more than good he is arguably one of the greatest directors of the last 3 decades with such varied genres on his resume one could never accuse him of not diversifying, often this is his downfall critically with some citing that he should stick to what he does best. From Alien through to last years American Gangster I have always admired both Scott’s direction and the performances he manages to entice from his actors, Russell Crowe in particular seems to flourish under his direction. Unsurprisingly this has led to them working together on many occasions much like De Niro, or Crowe’s co-star here, DiCaprio with Scorcese.

On this occasion Crowe takes something of a back seat with his role amounting to little more than an extended cameo, this is the DiCaprio/Scott show, with a side order of Crowe. On paper this sounded like a dream formula for any film regardless of the subject matter, but throw in the highly topical subject of terrorism and you should have something truly special. And you do! This is far and away a close contender to Gone Baby Gone for Thriller of the year.

Going by the films trailers Body Of Lies came across as nothing more than a simple espionage thriller with an Enemy Of The State surveillance flavour. But look under the hood and there is so much more to it, Dicaprio dominates the screen in much the same way as he did in The Departed and Blood Diamond adding extra depth to his character, a CIA ‘spy’ of sorts out to uncover the whereabouts of a terrorist leader with links to Al-Quaeda. DiCaprio is the conscious of sorts, questioning whether what he is doing to a point so that it doesn’t become preachy yet still makes a point, the mastery of the acting along with a rather fantastic scipt by Monaghan and Ignatus that is based upon real events gives the film a snappy and never dull sheen.

The exchanges between DiCaprio and CIA boss Crowe are a joy, they have enough witty banter to make it humorous whilst still seeming genuine in tackling a very delicate subject with respect and more importantly intelligenc, something that lacks in all too many film scripts. Most of Crowe’s time is spent talking via Bluetooth very much detached from the reality of the situation, this could have made a weaker actor look bad in floundering with no actual actor to play off but Crowe revels in it playing his slobby nature to a t, in truth this might not have been a stretch but it’s something an actor such as Tom Cruise would have struggled to make likeable and plausable.

Plaudits muct also go to Mark Strong, fast becoming one of the greats over the course of just two very differnet roles. In Rock’n’Rolla he added humanity to Guy Ritchie’s cardboard cut out characters and here he shines again, proving there really isn’t anything all that special about such ‘greats’ as DeNiro putting forth a performance to rival any this year so far, if there were any justice he would certainly be in contention for an Oscar next year!

The thing is it’s not the uniformly excellent acting you will leave the film remembering but more the visceral nature of the film itself, for once again the star of the show is Sir Ridley. Following the rather plodding, but very good, American Gangster, Body Of Lies has some of the best pacing I’ve experienced all year, keeping you on the edge of your seat throughout but never seeming ‘in your face’ as the Bourne films and most recently Quantum Of Solace have. In fact the action scenes are most compable with these two franchises in that there is much globe-trotting and some excellent fist fights thrown in amidst the siege style shoot outs, but it shines a light as to how poor the editing of the aforementioned films is when Scott and the mastery of his editor are up there on screen fpr all to see, 007 by Ridley Scott, now that would be an enticing prospect! 

Despite being about terrorism though there is thankfully little preaching going on, something many similar films fall apart from, The Kingdom is a fine example, looking promising on paper it very much fell apart failing to balance action and message. Here though you will leave the cinema thinking about what you have seen, not whether it is right to punish terrorists but more a question of what is right and wrong about the world in general. Climaxing with the usual Hollywood cliches is something that Body Of Lies by and large avoids, but its here that it falls apart slightly, with the cavalry saving the day, the thing is if it hadn’t I’d complain it was too bleak I’m sure, and really, in a film this good it’s the most minor of quibbles.

VERDICT

A truly superior thriller and fine example of a trailer failing to get across what is good in a film, this is the first truly great film to deal with terrorism since 9/11. Scott delivers another masterpiece of genre film-making, superb thriller. Done!

grade-a

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