Friday, October 10, 2008

Body of Lies



Films involving 'current events'--particularly those relating to anything happening in the Middle East and Terrorism--tend to be soaked in the writers', producers' and director's politics, which usually end up very much in-your-face and spoil the film, because you suddenly lose the story and drown in the preaching and proselytizing.

Ridley Scott, who has already addressed the West-East/Christianity-Islam issue in a previous film, Kingdom of Heaven, this time bit the bullet (instead of the sword) and continued KoH's story about 1000 years later. Body of Lies is very much a Ridley Scott movie and this translates into the film's politics as well. Thing is, you can't leave politics out of a political movie; and so what do you do?

Well, here's a newsflash for the poli-preachers on all sides: it's possible to have it all, and just watch Ridley Scott do it. Just like KoH, it's all about even-handedness and realizing that (1) every side in a conflict has a point of view, which, to itself, is perfectly valid; and (2) every side has people you'd probably like and some you really wouldn't, (3) the way to peace lies with understanding (1) and (2); and not with having just one point of view, no matter how righteous it may appear. Both, Islamophobes and Islamophiles--or those on the extremes of any aspect of the political spectrum--will probably find ample elements to dislike about this film. Others of a more moderate and even-handed disposition will find much to like and appreciate.

All of this, rather profound, stuff is wrapped up in a gritty Ridley Scott production and direction, that keeps your full attention for its full 2+ hours. Leonardo DiCaprio has really grown up and cast off his annoying persona, which was so prominent in just about all his movies; until 'Blood Diamond' came along. Russell Crowe is basically a secondary character, eclipsed almost completely by DiCaprio and Mark Strong. The latter has come a long way since I first saw him in the BBC production of Jane Austen's Emma. The gentle and understated romance element provided by Golshifteh Farahani as 'Aisha' provided a nice contrast to the testosterone-soaked male world in which this drama plays out.

The movie confirms what I've known for a long time: Ridley Scott apparently can do no wrong.

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