Body Of Lies

Body Of Lies (2008)
Warner Home Video
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Russel Crowe, Mark Strong, Golshifteh Farahani, Oscar Isaac
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurette, Deleted Scenes, BD Live

Ridley Scott's latest movie, "Body Of Lies" has stirred my interest when the theatrical trailers first flickered over my TV screen months ago and now that the Blu-Ray version has been released by Warner Home Video, I could barely wait to take a look at this gritty modern-day spy thriller.

Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio) is an anti-terrorist agent in the Middle East hot on the heels of major terrorist leader Al-Saleem. Under the direction from his superior, Ed Hoffman( Russel Crowe), an arm-chair operative back in the US, far away from the line of fire, he follows leads, trying to uncover Al-Saleem's terrorist cell, but every time he gets close, Hoffman manages to screw things up with his self-righteous "I have the bigger picture in mind" attitude.

To get closer to Al-Saleem, the americans try to work with the Jordanian anti-terrorist group under the leadership of Hani (Mark Strong). Unlike Hoffman, who relies mostly on his high tech gadgetry and misguided American supremacist thinking, Hani is working the terrorist cells from the inside, carefully converting individual members, turning them into valuable sources of information.

These two worlds of terrorist warfare collide inevitable when Hani and Hoffman "work" together, leaving Ferris helplessly in the middle of the two fronts without any real progress being made. He decides it is time for him to take matters in his own hands and he devises a plan that may just give him the chance to lure Al-Saleem out in the open.

"Body Of Lies" is a commentary in the way America is fighting its war against terrorism, and the way it is not getting any traction. While never raising a moralistic finger, Ridley Scott shows by example that the brute force approach the US is taking in this conflict is doing nothing but put our own country at an increased risk. Unable to grasp the jihadist mentality, the way they fight their war, Hoffman is absolutely clueless about what is really going on, despite the fact that he has an omnipresent eye in the sky, the highest technology and and an unlimited arsenal of weapons behind him. It reminds my quite vividly of the way Americans simply did not understand how to fight the war in Vietnam, giving in to their pompous self-righteousness and completely overlooking the essential.

On the other side we observe how the middle-eastern governments – in this case that of Jordan – takes steps to counter the terrorists by using their ingrained cultural understanding of these people to get what they want. While this approach may seem laughably inadequate in its low key approach, it is very evident that the results speak for themselves.

Leonardo DiCaprio gives another shining performance in this film that keeps adding to his incredibly strong performances in the past years – not to mention his drift away from the sunny boy image to very gritty roles. His Ferris character is believable, real and has depth, making sure the viewer is always on the edge when things get hairy for him and that we are outraged at Hoffman's antics when he destroys Ferris' carefully laid plans not only putting him at risk of being killed in the act, but also of being exposed.

Reuniting for yet another collaboration with director Ridley Scott, actor Russell Crowe once again plays the bastard. The shrewd marionettist, pulling the strings from behind the scenes without putting himself in danger, never disclosing his real motives, always coming across as aloof and arrogant, even in the face of complete failure. Crowe does an admirable job at playing these kinds of characters and the dislike we project onto Hoffman helps fuel the film. The only thing that didn't really work for me was his put on American drawl, which didn't sound real or convincing at any given time. There are actors who can pull off incredible dialects and accents, but Crowe is not one of the them, I am sad to say.

I should also mention Mark Strong's performance, which I found outstanding, despite his character being extremely terse. Without many words, Strong exuberates

Warner Home Video is presenting the movie in an incredible 1080p high definition transfer on this Blu-Ray release, reproducing every pixel of the film's grittiness with perfection. There are no blemishes in the transfer and the edgy look of the movie, that often uses grain to good effect, is coming to live with incredible vibrance. Colors are strong and absolutely solid, painting the tones of the hot desert every bit as cleanly as the grimy interiors of the shambled locations. Black levels are brutally deep, adding depth and contrast to the image in a way only Ridley Scott can handle them.

The audio comes as a Dolby Digital 5.1 HD track that is powerful and explosive, just as it should be. It tosses you in the middle of the conflict with explosions filling your home theater and rattling your speakers, using direction effects aggressively and with incredible spatial direction. This is also noticeable, particularly during some of the bustling street market scenes. Dialogues are perfectly integrated, never too low to be fully understood and never too loud to stand out too much. The dynamic range of the audio track is impeccable, making for the perfect sonic presentation of the film.

The release contains a series of bonus materials, spearheaded by a commentary track that features director Ridley Scott, screenwriter William Monahan and the writer of the novel on which the film is based, David Ignatius. Now here you have a group of people who is not only well-read, but also so incredibly lucid and well-informed on the subject matter discussing the political implications and difficulties of these anti-terrorist agencies in quite some detail. Many times you can't help but wonder why this kind of insight and understanding of the material does not seem to have been available to the Bush administration. But I'm getting political when I shouldn't…

Also included is the "Interactive Debriefing" feature, in which the stars and director discuss the subjects touched upon in the film, as well as some additional scenes with commentary by Ridley Scott. All bonus materials are presented in high definition on this disc. Further a digital copy of the film is included on a second disc.

"Body Of Lies" is every bit as impressive and gripping as I had hoped it would be. Ridley Scott is probably the most cinematically eloquent political filmmakers out there these days, giving us one powerhouse of a film after another. and each with so much story, plot, twists and reality that you simply cannot stop thinking and talking about it until days after you have seen the film. "Body Of Lies" is a must have release, plain and simple!