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Blu-ray Reviews


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#1 of 8 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

Cameron Yee

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Posted February 15 2009 - 01:48 PM

Body of Lies

Release Date: February 17, 2009
Studio: Warner Home Video
Packaging/Materials: Single-disc Blu-Ray case with cardstock slipcover
Year: 2008
Rating: R
Running Time: 2h08m
MSRP: $35.99

Video1080p high definition 16x9 2.40:11080p high definition
AudioDolby TrueHD: English 5.1 / Dolby Digital: English 5.1, French 5.1 (dubbed in Quebec), Spanish 5.1, Portuguese 5.1Stereo
SubtitlesEnglish, French, Spanish and Portuguese (movie and select bonus material)

The Feature: 4/5
CIA field officer Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio) has acquired some hard-won intelligence - a lead on a terrorist training operation in Amman, Jordan, connected to an up-and-coming Islamic extremist, Al-Saleem (Alon Abutbul). His boss Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe) gives Ferris full control of CIA's Jordanian field office, but the rest of the operation is not so easy. Hoffman winds up working at cross purposes from Ferris, sometimes even sabotaging his efforts that require a tenuous partnership with Jordan's intelligence, run by the suave but menacing Hani (Mark Strong). It's not that Hoffman doesn't want results, he just has a different idea of how to get them. But the two eventually come together and concoct a plan to draw out Al-Saleem, but one that could jeopardize all of Ferris's connections. That certainly includes his fragile professional collaboration with Hani, but also his developing relationship with a beautiful Iranian nurse named Aisha (Golshifteh Farahani). It's ultimately the welfare of the latter that will drive Ferris to a point of desperation.

In less capable hands "Body of Lies" probably would have been a convoluted mess. As it is, it can still require some concentration to make sense of all the varying allegiances, schemes and interests at play, but that's mostly in the first half. By the time Hoffman and Ferris hatch their plot, there's little to be confused by, the story elements hewing closely to traditional spy thriller fare. This may cause some to complain about time being wasted in the first hour, but without it I doubt the unraveling of Ferris's operation would have the same impact or sense of urgency. Without it the film would also be just another well-made but superficial action piece where the political context is mostly irrelevant. Though it's certainly nothing as serious or thought-provoking as "Syriana" it does prove to be a more accessible approach to similar issues and subject matter, for anyone willing to look beyond its more thrilling elements.

Video Quality: 4.5/5
The film is accurately framed at 2.40:1 and presented in 1080p with the VC-1 codec. Short of slight haloing along high contrast edges, the picture is uniformly excellent. Blacks are deep and inky and contrast looks great, though there seems to be some intentional crushing of blacks to emphasize the harsh environments. There aren't a lot of colorful moments in the film, things tending to be cold and sterile or, as the production designers put it, the color of toast, but the selected palette shows nice saturation and depth. Fine object detail is especially impressive, skin texture, facial hair and the grit of the desert all standing out for their remarkable clarity. Grain structure also looks appropriately preserved with no indications of noise reduction or excessive digital processing.

Audio Quality: 5/5
The Dolby TrueHD audio track offers a balanced mix of immersive surround activity, deep and clean LFE and consistently intelligible dialogue. The several action set pieces of course impress, but it's the more subtle moments with ever-present environmental ambiance that really gives the film its sonic character. Whether in the crowded Jordanian markets or the familiar settings of suburban america, the soundtrack authenticates the visuals and gives the viewer a palpable sense of place.

Special Features: 4/5
Though I would have preferred a high definition trailer on-disc, the special features as a whole are quite good, feeling both thorough and focused.

Commentary by Director Ridley Scott, Screenwriter William Monahan and Author David Ignatius: Pieced together from separate interviews with each man, the commentary wins points for offering a range of views with little overlap. I found Ignatius's contribution the most interesting, being the creator of the source material that draws on years of experience as a journliast in the Middle East. Monahan mostly talks about the challenge in adapting a narratively dense and complicated story into something appropriate for consumption in theaters, while Scott offers a blend of information ranging from production experiences to real world intelligence operations. Scott tends to describe what's happening on screen, but his explanations prove helpful when the story gets complicated.

Focus Points: Branching feature allows the viewer to access the contents of the "Actionable Intelligence" featurettes, while watching the movie.

"Actionable Intelligence: Deconstructing Body of Lies"
Featurettes on the making of the film include interviews with the director, two leads and other members of the cast and crew along with lots of behind-the-scenes footage from production. Produced by Charles de Lauzirika, all the pieces are well done and thorough.
  • Uneasy Alliance: Ferris and Hoffman (7m23s): The dynamics between and background of the two main characters, along with Crowe and DiCaprio's preparation.
  • Foreign Relations: Ferris and Aisha (6m37s): The dynamics between characters Ferris and Aisha, along with Farahani's experience working on her first American film.
  • The Color of Toast: Costume and Production Design (8m41s): Selecting clothes for the leads and extras and getting the proper signage.
  • Master of the Craft: Ridley Scott (7m59s): Scott's working style and his return to Rabat, Morocco for the fourth time.
  • Safe Haven: Morocco (7m50s): Pre-production, location scouting and set dressing and design in Rabat.
  • Controlled Hostility: Stunts and Special Effects (14m33s): Preparing for and shooting four major sequences - the Amsterdam bombing, the Nizar abduction in the market, the foot pursuit in Dog Alley, and the Sadiki car chase.
  • Field Operation: Safe House (8m06s): A detailed look at filming the desert safe house raid.
  • Field Operation: The Terrible Room (8m17s): A detailed look at filming the Ferris interrogation scene.
  • Author Provacateur: David Ignatius (7m53s): Author Ignatius's background inspiration for the novel and adapting it to film.
Interactive Debriefing: Around 18 minutes of interviews of Scott, DiCaprio, Crowe on the subjects of story, collaboration and intelligence. Users access the interviews through an interactive matrix where they can pick and choose the interviews, but it's just as easy to choose "Play All" since there's only nine interviews in total. The content is pretty standard press junket fare. They talk about the basic plot and characters under "Story," about Scott's fast-paced directing style and their overall working style in "Collaboration," and their attempts to understand and portray the CIA under "Intelligence."

Deleted Scenes (14m43s): Five scenes with an introduction by Scott and with optional audio commentary. As usual scenes were pulled for pacing and dynamics rather than technical or performance quality. It's interesting to hear Scott explain the reasons, the most detailed being for the longest of the scenes, which spends more time on Ferris and Aisha's relationship.

BD-Live: At the time of login, the only film-related feature was a trailer for the DVD and BD release.

Digital Copy: Download a digital copy for playback on computer or portable video device. Compatible with both Mac and Windows.


The Feature: 4/5
Video Quality: 4.5/5
Audio Quality: 5/5
Special Features: 4/5
Overall Score (not an average): 4/5

A spy thriller with a compelling political element gets excellent audio and video treatment and a very good special features package.

#2 of 8 OFFLINE   Southpaw


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Posted February 16 2009 - 01:38 AM

Nice review Cameron. I haven't seen this one yet but I have it on order and hopefully will receive it tomorrow. You amped up my anticipation of it even more now. Posted Image

#3 of 8 OFFLINE   Cees Alons

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Posted February 16 2009 - 03:48 AM

Thanks, Cameron, for a very nice review.

Can't wait to receive this one, especially the "Amsterdam Bombing" will be interesting to watch. Posted Image


#4 of 8 OFFLINE   MarekM


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Posted February 16 2009 - 07:41 AM

Posted Image are you close to Amsterdam ? Posted Image

#5 of 8 OFFLINE   Adam Gregorich

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Posted February 17 2009 - 02:51 AM

Nice review. My wife &I really enjoyed this film. It will be a buy when it comes out on BD.

#6 of 8 OFFLINE   Southpaw


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Posted February 18 2009 - 09:22 AM

Okay, just got done watching this one. Great movie, but I was disappointed in the TrueHD track. Surround use was good and I could hear dialogue fine but LFE during the many explosions was virtually non-existent. No way would I rate it a 5/5. Plus the score didn't do anything for me.

#7 of 8 OFFLINE   Ken_McAlinden



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Posted February 19 2009 - 01:34 AM

The SD DVD soundtrack sounded dynamically compressed to me, which robbed some of the more "explosive" scenes of their potential impact. There was still some dynamic headroom in the LFE, but it did not sound well integrated with the rest of the soundfield. I have not listened to the BD, but that could be what you are hearing (or missing). Regards,
Ken McAlinden
Livonia, MI USA

#8 of 8 OFFLINE   Yumbo



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Posted February 19 2009 - 09:37 AM

The Manchester bombing had no LFE. Amsterdam was ok. Only the Turkey one had some impact. Design? Overall was good (see helicoptor scenes), score was locale driven. Want good sound? Try MADAGASCAR 2.

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