Friday, October 17, 2008

Reel Thoughts: Body Heat

Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott have one of the strongest actor/director relationships in film today. More often than not, that’s a good thing (the “not” being A Good Year), so it is interesting to see how Scott uses Crowe in Body of Lies. It’s really Leonardo DiCaprio’s picture, but Crowe, as Ed Hoffman, steals his share of scenes.

DiCaprio plays Roger Farris, a CIA operative who is trying to track down a ruthless terrorist mastermind. His efforts are often disrupted by his boss, the portly Hoffman, whose decidedly Bush-like bumbling and complete disregard for human casualties would make him funny if it weren’t so sad. Trailing the mastermind to Jordan, Farris tries to follow the rules set forth by their head of covert operations (the charismatic Mark Strong), but again, he’s tripped up by Hoffman’s clumsy gung-ho mentality.

Body of Lies is a taut, engaging thriller that does not wear its post-9/11 morals on its sleeve. Crowe’s Hoffman is not a villain, although the terrorists most certainly are, and the film really strives to make sense of the ground war on terror. It doesn’t feel exploitative, and DiCaprio is fantastic bobbing and weaving through heart-racing danger and unimaginable torture.

Crowe put on 60 pounds to play the placid Hoffman, and it works to his advantage. He has a scary resolve that his heft helps hide until needed. He looks like he’s carrying the whole Bush Doctrine around his waist. The procedural parts of Body of Lies reminded me of A Mighty Heart, and I enjoyed how behind the scenes it felt. If you’re looking for a well-made thriller with A-List acting, check out Body of Lies.

UPDATE: Body of Lies is now available on DVD and Blu-rayfrom

Review by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.

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