Sunday, November 23, 2008

Body of Lies; Quantum of Solace; Religulous

Body of Lies
Director: Ridley Scott
Writers (WGA):William Monahan (screenplay)
David Ignatius (novel)
Release Date:10 October 2008 (USA) more
Tagline:Trust no one. Deceive everyone.

Cast (major)
Leonardo DiCaprio - Roger Ferris
Russell Crowe - Ed Hoffman

Body of Lies is a film that is rooted in a post 9/11 global terrorist world, in which deciphering the good guys from the bad guys is never as easy as it should be. Complicating such matters is that it is virtually impossible to distinguish the good guys from the bad guys within distinct organizations (CIA, Al Qaeda, etc)... Director Ridley Scott (American Gangster, Gladiator, Alien) uses this premise to diffuse this film with questions of Who? and Why?

Who are we fighting?

Why are we fighting?

Who are our allies?

Who are our enemies?

Roger Ferris (DiCaprio) plays a super secret CIA agent who infiltrates terrorist organizations throughout the Middle East with the aid (or detriment) of Ed Hoffman (Crowe) his CIA supervisor stationed in the USA.

Through a series of leads and counter-leads, trusts and betrayals, Ferris finds himself with much blood on his hands and a conscious he cannot comprehend. DiCaprio seizes this role boldly and his range manages to demonstrate the conflict in his character as he maneuvers his way throughout a world without boundaries - a world where every turn could be his last.

Crowe uses his suave demeanor to pull us in at first to his character who has a single minded approach to the war on terror: Do whatever is necessary to meet an end objective. However, his role soon becomes cliché and undefining. I found myself wondering if he would start to quote proverbial Dirty Harry lines. His complete lack of consciousness continually leads us to question the seriousness of his position, and one wonders if a more stoic and stern actor could have been chosen.

Full of blood and intrigue and enough explosions and plot twists to keep most entertained throughout, the ultimate pitfall for the film is the completely wasted final third where the audience is subjected to an awful display of pandering to the love need. In a movie that could have stood quite well on its own with no mention of a female part, a female part is exactly what was injected under the most bizarre circumstances.

Golshifteh Farahani plays the role of Aiesha, a local nurse who treats DiCaprio after one of his numerous blood soaked encounters. His immediate desire to court her while in the middle of trying to win the ultimate war speaks only to the insatiable appetite of men everywhere to satisfy their carnal needs. Was it necessary to spend so much of the movie focusing on this story line when there was so much that was left out? Farahani puts on a very believable role and I enjoyed her performance immensely, I only wish it had been part of a different film.


Quantum of Solace
Director:Marc Forster
Writers (WGA):Paul Haggis (written by) and Neal Purvis (written by)
Release Date:14 November 2008 (USA) more


Daniel Craig - James Bond
Olga Kurylenko - Camille
Mathieu Amalric - Dominic Greene
Judi Dench - M
Giancarlo Giannini - Mathis

Whether you leave a Bond film feeling satisfied or stymied, one thing has always been certain about the dashing Brit portraying the world's greatest secret-agent: Gadgets, one-liners, and martinis (shaken, not stirred). It has always been certain, relatively speaking, until the reveal of Quantum of Solace, director Marc Forester's (Monster's Ball) attempt at shaking up the industry.

In this somewhat revamped, and seemingly prequel-esque film, Daniel Craig portrays a 007 unknown to most followers of the past 40+ years. Gone are Q's famous gadgets which usually riddle a Bond film and added are some much more thrill-ride action sequences, albeit still the same head-shaking 'how did he survive that' moments. Gone also is the trademark 'Shaken, not stirred' comment, lines left to a male flight attendant. Gone is the constant seduction of a female co-star, a former staple of past films.

I am not sure how to comment on the lack of the above Bond features from the past, because this film stands alone as a decent action thriller filled with a discernable plot, packed action, some romance, and an intriguing twist on Bond's emotional state.

I just don't know if it is a Bond film without all the bells and whistles.

Craig does a very good job (better than Casino Royale) at bringing out the deep states of emotion a double agent must seemingly go through all the time, and it comes through well on the big screen. Here lies a distinct difference from former Bond films, in that the usually focused character who hits on the secretary with a charming one-liner and saunters off to the spa in search of a masseuse, all the while carrying a gun close to his hip ready to take on the bad guy around the corner, is now replaced by a darker version of this character of the past, one who thinks of revenge and kill first, rather than detaining for information.

The dark issues Craig struggles with stem from the loss of his love and the resulting revenge he seeks, but somehow it all seems very much like a stand-alone action film (a decent one at that) but not a Bond film. I am quite sure viewers will leave this film with the satisfaction that their money was not wasted, but also with a vague sense of being cheated.


Religulous (Short summary)

Director:Larry Charles

Writer:Bill Maher (written by)

Release Date:3 October 2008 (USA) more
Genre:Documentary more
Tagline:Do you smell something burning? more

Bill Maher - Himself

If you are the type of person who can attend a viewing of a film that is obviously biased and obviously looking to push buttons without feeling an overwhelming need to voice your opinion and sit with arms crossed and pouted lips until the ending, then Bill Maher's mockumentary is probably for you.

I enjoyed this film quite a bit on a very level field of entertainment. Religion is attacked, yes, but also questioned and debated in a light-hearted way that leaves you laughing at some of the absurdities but also pondering some deeper questions of what it means to have so much of the world's control and leadership under the thumb of religion.

The film attempts to draw some very strange and apocalyptic conclusion at the end and I wish it had simply stuck to the humor it had throughout, but overall this is a movie worth seeing - if you go in with a blank mindset regarding religion.


1 comment:

eRin said...

I agree with you on the ending, enough with the bombs!