THE VISITOR (2008) (****)

9 10 2008
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Check Out the Trailer

Thomas McCarthy is an actor who has been in a lot of good films and TV series you probably have seen — MEET THE PARENTS, SYRIANA, FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS, MICHAEL CLAYTON, THE WIRE, LAW & ORDER. But even when I look at his picture his face doesn’t stick out from those productions. This is not a criticism, just an observation. However, his directing and writing work is unforgettable. I placed his 2003 feature debut STATION AGENT at #3 on my top-25 list from that year. His latest film will certainly be among the top of my 2008 best of list as well.

Prof. Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins, BURN AFTER READING) is a sad man, just going through the motions of life. When he’s asked to present a paper he co-authored at a conference, he tells a friend that he doesn’t feel comfortable doing so because his co-author really did all the work. With no alternative, he travels from Connecticut, where he teaches, to New York City where he has kept an apartment for years, but rarely visits. When he arrives, he discovers Tarek (Haaz Sleiman, TV’s 24) and Zainab (Danai Jekesai Gurira, GHOST TOWN) living in his place. Someone has scammed them into thinking the apartment was open for rent. Because they have no place to go, Walter kindly allows them to stay until they can find someplace to go.

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BODY OF LIES (2008) (***)

9 10 2008
Check Out the Trailer
Check Out the Trailer

Ridley Scott’s BODY OF LIES battles between being an insightful contemporary look at the CIA and a conventional spy thriller. Based on Washington Post columnist David Ignatius’ 2007 novel, the film has scheming spies stepping on anyone to reach their objective. While the film does have something to say about human versus high-tech intelligence, the plot could have featured Russians and come from the 1980s. In the end, BODY OF LIES turns out to be less like SYRIANA and more like Tony Scott’s SPY GAME, entertaining, but conventional.

On-the-ground CIA agent Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio, BLOOD DIAMOND) uncovers news in an Iraq of a new terrorist cell in Jordon. His boss Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe, THE INSIDER) wants him to head up the mission in Amman. With his knowledge and respect for the region, Roger strikes up a trusted partnership with the head of Jordanian intelligence Hani Salaam (Mark Strong, SYRIANA). But soon the arrogant Hoffman gets impatient with Hani’s help and demands results fast. The brash attitude of Hoffman ends up jeopardizing the overall mission to catch the terrorist leader Al-Saleem (Alon Abutbul, RAMBO III).

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