Body Of Lies (2008)
Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe, Mark Strong, Vince Colosimo, Golshifteh Farahani.
Written by William Monahan.
Directed by Ridley Scott.
In the Middle East, CIA operative Roger Ferris (DiCaprio) chases an Islamic extremist responsible for a spate of bombings. In the United States, an agency analyst named Ed Hoffman (Crowe) tracks Ferris’ movements on the ground through a network of communications systems, feeding information and distorting it on his own terms. When Ferris ingratiates himself into the Jordanian intelligence community by eliciting the help of the smarmy head honcho (the brooding Mark Strong), the lines of trust begin to blur. This exceptional film, based on a novel of the same name by David Ignatius, avoids any propagandist stance and features two excellent performances from its lead actors – possibly cementing Leonardo’s position as (arguably) the greatest actor of his generation. His career since the eternally overrated Titanic has been perpetually strong, choosing the kind of roles that have not only showcased his dramatic chops but have allowed the man to grow as an actor. Director Ridley Scott rarely takes a wrong step and again delivers with an intelligent, dramatic and suspenseful film. Highly recommended.
Tom Cruise, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Kenneth Branagh, Eddie Izzard, Carice van Houten, Thomas Kretschmann & Terrence Stamp.
Written by Christopher McQuarrie & Nathan Alexander.
Directed by Bryan Singer.
As dissent towards the Fuhrer grows, a disillusioned Nazi colonel named Claus von Stauffenberg (Cruise) is enlisted by a group of like-minded individuals to assassinate the German leader and bring an end to World War 2. Whilst plots are organised and foiled, von Stauffenberg realises that loyalties within the Third Reich are not what they seem. This often laughable film is based on true events, but despite some excellent production values, never succeeds to fully engage. Cruise has never been stiffer, and a talented cast are given roles that equate to not much more than clichés (particularly van Houten, who was excellent in the recent Black Book, but whose character here is nothing more than an afterthought). It’s all a little limp really, with a potentially dramatic and serious subject being reduced to the stuff of a poor comic book. Director Singer has again established himself (in my ever humble opinion) as one of the dullest filmmakers in the biz, rendering Valkyrie as unsuccessful as the assassination of Hitler himself.
Gran Torino (2008)
Clint Eastwood, Bee Vang, Christopher Carley, Ahney Her.
Written by Nick Schenk.
Directed by Clint Eastwood.
Walt Kowalski is a bitter veteran of the Korean War who, when his wife passes, is left to his own devices in the house they shared – all against the wishes and concerns of his family. Initially deriding the advent of Asian immigrants in his once idyllic American street, Walt is eventually won over by their culture and accepted into their community when he saves a young boy named Thao from the will of an Asian gang. Soon, a friendship begins to blossom between Thao and Walt, as the older man attempts to provide direction for the aimless youth – all the while staving off the advances of the boys’ hoodlum cousin. Gran Torino comes close to being singlehandedly sabotaged by its untalented Hmong supporting cast who, fortunately for us, are saved by Eastwood himself. Apparently the goal was to have those of authentic Hmong descent featured in the film, but by insisting on this realism, the filmmakers sacrificed the necessity of acting skill. Yet, despite this distraction, Gran Torino is still a solid film with a wholly satisfying ending and one of the most emotive end credit songs that I have heard in the last few years (co-written, incidentally, by Clint and Kyle Eastwood).