Thursday, 27 January 2011

Body of Lies: Things are hard to find in the desert

Body of Lies doesn't appear to be saying one thing about Iraq, or trying to expose a grand conspiracy. It gives little pieces of insight and drama in the middle of a conventional thriller. Too serious to be fun, but too silly to be important. In tracking down an elusive terrorist, Russell Crowe's chubby CIA man has a few words of wisdom: 'Our enemy has realised they are fighting guys from the future. And if they live like it's the past and behave like it's the past, then guys from the future find it very hard to see them'. This is at least true of him, as he sits in his control room watching satellite pictures of people buying vegetables. It's a bit harder for DiCaprio's character, who's an agent in the middle of it all. He's having a bad time. Things are hard to find in the desert and people keep shooting at him. His operations are frequently sabotaged by the man in the sky, who seems to be casual about the danger involved. It's a film that wants to make you afraid of walking down the street, or at least a street in the Middle East: 'We're an easy target. And our world is a lot easier to put to an end than you might think'. Serious stuff then, but it can't shake the problem of being a slightly average thriller. Its plot is tangled and the enemy is elusive, so much so that it doesn't have any drive. It's caught between wanting to explode things and make serious points about doom. If it wants to have action it should go for it. Give me a car chase or a big fight. Instead it gets a bit shy and veers off into a little romantic subplot with an Iranian nurse. To be fair, it's an interesting subplot, but in a different film. Green Zone worked because it was a straight action film, making its points but never slowing down. Body of Lies goes halfway towards action, halfway towards drama. Not really committing to either.

One day someone is going to make a great film about these things. Body of Lies isn't it. I don't think Green Zone is either. It might come a long way in the future, when it's looking back instead of trying to predict the future. Body of Lies will probably be forgotten. Apart from Mark Strong's suave Jordanian intelligence minister. He's so good at it you won't even recognise him. Shady, threatening, and thoroughly polite. And DiCaprio has a big fluffy beard at one point. So that's good.

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