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Body of Lies DVD Review

Body of Lies (2008) movie poster Body of Lies

Theatrical Release: October 10, 2008 / Running Time: 128 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Ridley Scott / Writers: William Monahan (screenplay), David Ignatius (novel)

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio (Roger Ferris), Russell Crowe (Ed Hoffman), Mark Strong (Hani Salaam), Golshifteh Farahani (Aisha), Oscar Isaac (Bassam), Alon Aboutboul (Al-Saleem), Simon McBurney (Garland), Vince Colosimo (Skip), Ali Suliman (Omar Sadiki), Kais Nashif (Mustafa Karami), Michael Gaston (Holiday), Lubna Azabal (Aisha's Sister Cala)

Buy Body of Lies from Amazon.com: 1-Disc Widescreen DVD 1-Disc Full Screen DVD Two-Disc Special Edition DVD Blu-ray Disc

Last week, Forbes released a list ranking over 1,400 Hollywood movie actors by value. The result of an industry survey on performers' ability to attract talent and audiences, the Star Currency list found Leonardo DiCaprio tied for second place. Ranked 14th, Russell Crowe wasn't far behind.
These two heavyweights recently came together in a movie directed by Crowe's acclaimed Gladiator and American Gangster helmer Ridley Scott and adapted by DiCaprio's Oscar-winning The Departed screenwriter William Monahan. The facts and numbers would point to this film, Body of Lies, as being a sure thing at the box office. Quite the contrary, this R-rated action thriller tanked last fall, barely earning back half its $70 million budget in domestic theaters.

DiCaprio plays Roger Ferris, a CIA counterterrorism agent whose firm grasp of Arabic and flexible beard growth help him blend in and thwart potential troublemakers in the Middle East. Crowe is Ed Hoffman, Ferris' tight-lipped supervisor, a security advisor who spends most of his time in America, trying to maintain a normal family life when not calmly but firmly barking orders through his mouthpiece.

After some tense episodes in Iraq, Ferris makes his way over to Amman, Jordan, where he collaborates with Hani Salaam (Mark Strong), the smooth local intelligence head. For their respective organizations, both target terrorist leader Al Saleem, proceeding with tact and some mutual suspicion. The movie unfolds by rotating our attentions between: Ferris and Ed's confrontational, largely long-distance relationship; Ferris and Hani's terse, strategic partnership; and a chaste cross-cultural romance between Ferris and a local nurse Aisha (Golshifteh Farahani).

Leonardo DiCaprio takes on the Middle East with a baseball cap, sunglasses, facial hair, and a gun in "Body of Lies." Russell Crowe spends most of the movie alone, talking long-distance into his earpiece. He gained 63 pounds for that?!

Ostensibly the story of global efforts to track down a terrorist, Body of Lies is much more the profile of a 21st century spy who develops a conscience in the midst of his life-and-death actions. The film proceeds with as much style as substance, offering a few bursts of action and little suspense (most of it in a briefly brutal climax). It is fairly routine and not especially eventful or insightful.

And yet, a trio of strong performances and Scott's sharp direction help lift the proceedings higher. At the center, DiCaprio holds our interest throughout despite playing a character who's not really flashy or fleshed out. Though given a minimum of activity and a modest amount of screentime, Crowe still impresses with his commitment, which comes complete with American accent and weight gain (reportedly 63 pounds, a number neither believable nor sane). Even more striking is Mark Strong, who is unrecognizable in his transformation from English actor to calculated Jordanian force.

Body of Lies comes to DVD and Blu-ray this Tuesday. On standard DVD, Warner lets buyers choose between a barebones single disc version and a two-disc Special Edition. I received the former and review it below.

Buy Body of Lies (Widescreen Edition) from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned
Release Date: February 17, 2009
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $19.96 (Reduced from $28.99)
Black Keepcase
Also available in Reformatted Full Screen Edition,
2-Disc Special Edition and on Blu-ray Disc


Visually and aurally, nothing is too remarkable about Body of Lies. The movie looks and sounds just fine in its 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen and Dolby 5.1 feature presentation. Clearly a product of its time, it opts for dark high contrast photography, jerky camerawork,

lots of cuts, and a droning score. The tiny bit of foreign dialogue throughout is translated by burned-in yellow subtitles.


Though the case makes no mention of it, the Body of Lies single-disc DVD edition includes a digital copy of the film. In typical Warner fashion, this is obtained by download with the unique code enclosed, which expires in six months. And it will cost you $1.99, making it all the less attractive.

No other special features are found here, but the concurrent 2-Disc Special Edition offers an audio commentary by director Ridley Scott, screenwriter William Monahan, and author David Ignatius plus "Deconstructing Body of Lies" in which "key sequences are explored in depth via on-set footage and cast/crew interviews."

The disc loads with Warner's Casablanca anti-piracy ad, the studio's general Blu-ray promo, short Pride and Glory and RocknRolla DVD previews, a full-length Watchmen trailer, and an anti-tobacco commercial. These aren't available from any menu.

The animated main menu runs with tracking satellite imagery and communications with the occasional zoom yielding film clips. The other two menus boast a similarly teal-tinted design but lack motion and sound.

In addition to the digital copy authorization code, an 8-page booklet promoting Blu-ray is housed inside the case.

You've probably seen Mark Strong in other films, but that doesn't mean you'll recognize him in his transformative turn as Jordanian intelligence head Hani Salaam, seen here giving Ferris a desert lesson. Stopping on an airport runway, Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio have a very important conversation in front of robed and turbaned reflections.


Body of Lies' flaccid American reception isn't too hard to understand.
Two well-known leads are not enough to excite audiences who aren't already intrigued by the story. Rightfully so, it's the subject matter -- not the star power or pedigree -- that serves as the most logical reason to check out the film. Sufficiently crafted and engaging throughout, Body nevertheless fails to deliver much to make it stand out or be remembered. It's unfortunate that Warner decided to make bonus material that would easily fit here exclusive to the premium 2-disc edition. But this film isn't one to produce supplement hunger, nor is it one you'll likely need to see more than once.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com: 1-Disc DVD / 2-Disc Special Edition DVD / Blu-ray

Buy from Amazon.com

The Book: Body of Lies by David Ignatius

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Reviewed February 16, 2009.

Text copyright 2009 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2008 Warner Bros. Pictures, Scott Free Pictures, De Line Pictures, and 2009 Warner Home Video.
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.