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Body of Lies
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this gripping-though-inconsistent spy/terrorism thriller is quite violent -- almost tenaciously so. There's torture, gunfights, and explosions, as well as a fair number of close-ups of bloody injuries and corpses. People are sacrificed regardless of their loyalties, or even their actual involvement in terror activities. There's also some smoking and drinking and plenty of swearing (including "f--k"), though no real sexual content of note.
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What's the story?
Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a hotshot CIA operative running shotgun on covert maneuvers in the Middle East. Edward Hoffman (Russell Crowe) is the paunchy, headstrong boss who has his back -- most of the time -- back in Langley, Virginia. Their mission is to stop the terrorists in their tracks and capture their fearsome leader, Al-Saleem (Alon Aboutboul). But they're foiled repeatedly ... until Ferris hatches a scheme to create a new, fictitious leader vying for prominence with Al-Saleem. It's a bloody plan aimed at trying the guilty, but it ends up sacrificing the innocent. Ferris isn't sure whether his allies -- including Jordanian intelligence -- are truly behind him, or whether his newfound friendship with an Iranian doctor (Golshifteh Farahani) will put everything, including himself, in jeopardy.
Is it any good?
The tension begins from the first moment and rarely lets up in Ridley Scott's BODY OF LIES. The quick camera cuts and the rough, gritty terrain add to the pressure. All good to be sure. But couple that with the movie's nearly unrelenting violence (bombs exploding, machine guns firing, bodies bleeding) and you end up with a thriller that flirts dangerously with being overdone (this is not a film for anyone prone to migraines). Although it offers a fascinating (if labyrinthine) look at the intricacies of running covert operations, in the end, it focuses too much on serving up stylized fare when all we really long for is a good, old-fashioned spy movie. Or at least one that illuminates or adds depth to what we already know -- from the news and from other movies that have taken on the subject -- about the war on terror.
But Body of Lies does do one thing perfectly: give viewers a chance to see two fine actors go toe to toe. DiCaprio is intense, but his Titanic-like charms add much-needed levity when he comes a-courting at his beloved physician's home. And Crowe is arrogant but compelling in a role that has him dispensing murderous orders while at his child's soccer game buffet and swinging by school for a drop off.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the ongoing war on terror. How does this movie confirm or defy your expectations of what secret agents do? How accurate do you think it is? What messages is the movie trying to convey about espionage and terrorism? Do you think it has a particular agenda? What makes this different from other thrillers? Families can also discuss Ferris and Hoffman's relationship. How would you characterize it? Knowing all he's done, does Ferris ever get pangs of guilt? What does that say about his character?
- In theaters: October 8, 2008
- On DVD or streaming: February 17, 2009
- Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Strong, Russell Crowe
- Director: Ridley Scott
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 123 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong violence including some torture, and for language throughout
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