First Takes |

First Takes

‘The Express’

No summary available. Rated PG for thematic content, violence and language involving racism, and for brief sensuality.

‘Body of Lies'” “Rendition.” “Redacted.” “The Kingdom.” “In the Valley of Elah.” “Lions for Lambs.” They’re all movies about the war on terror that nobody has wanted to see, either because the topic is too daunting or too much of a downer, or it’s simply too soon after 9/11.

Soon, you’ll be able to add “Body of Lies” to that list, even though it’s probably the most worthwhile and least preachy of the bunch. The pieces would all seem to be in place for a compelling take on this complex topic: strong work from acting heavyweights Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio; an intricate script from William Monahan, an Academy Award winner for “The Departed”; and the virtuoso visual styling of director Ridley Scott.

Of course, it looks great as it bounces breathlessly between Iraq and Jordan, Qatar and the Netherlands, Dubai and the Virginia suburbs. And yet the result, with its many explosions and shootouts, too often feels like a generic action picture, albeit one with weightier stuff on its mind. Based on the novel of the same name by Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, whose knowledge of the subject matter would seem to be unimpeachable, “Body of Lies” follows undercover CIA operative Roger Ferris (DiCaprio), who’s trying to ferret out the mastermind behind a series of anonymous bombings around the world.

At the same time, Ferris’ boss, Ed Hoffman (Crowe), is running surveillance and plotting strategy from home with the help of his ever-present cell-phone headset and laptop. But despite their shared goals and mutual dependence, Ferris and Hoffman often end up miscommunicating and undermining each other. This becomes especially true when Ferris tries to chat up the smooth Jordanian intelligence chief (Mark Strong, who nearly steals the whole movie). R for strong violence, including some torture, and for language throughout. 128 min. Two and a half stars out of four.

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