Critics Consensus

Critics Consensus: Express Scores, Body of Lies Falls Flat

Plus, Ember lacks luster, and guess Quarantine's Tomatometer!

by | October 9, 2008 | Comments

This week at the movies, we’ve got suspicious spies (Body of Lies, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe), gridiron greats (The Express, starring Rob Brown and Dennis Quaid), underground empires (City of Ember, starring Bill Murray and Tim Robbins), and deadly outbreaks (Quarantine, starring Jennifer Carpenter). What do the critics have to say?

Troubled times inspire troubled movies, and critics say Ridley Scott‘s espionage thriller Body of Lies is brainier and politically sharper than your typical spy yarn. However, others say it gets too bogged down in action scenes to totally hit its mark. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Roger Ferris, a CIA operative who has tracked down a terrorist leader in Jordan; however, he must get approval from his boss, Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe), as well as the head of the Jordanian Intelligence agency. Naturally, machinations and intrigue follow. The pundits say Body of Lies‘ impressive pedigree goes a long way toward redeeming the film; it’s well acted and expertly crafted. However, some critics feel the story is way too labyrinthine and scattershot to be emotionally involving. Body of Lies currently stands at 57 percent on the Tomatometer.

“Dude, for the last time, you are not the king of the world.”

The inspirational, tragic life of Ernie Davis was ready-made for cinematic treatment: the first African American player to win college football’s Heisman Trophy, Davis set rushing records — and battled racial prejudice — before succumbing to leukemia on the eve of turning pro. Critics say The Express is a worthy big-screen tribute to one of pigskin’s greatest heroes, overcoming formulaic biopic tropes with sincerity and excellent performance. Rob Brown stars as Davis, an extremely talented but apolitical young man thrust into the harsh glare of history, and Dennis Quaid plays Syracuse coach Ben Schwartzwalder, a man who changes as a result of his charge’s heroic perseverance. The pundits say The Express has plenty of solid gridiron action, and it exceeds typical inspirational sports movie fare with its heart and craft. At 65 percent on the Tomatometer, The Express sails through the uprights.

“I told you not to use auto-draft for your fantasy team!”

Set in a crumbling underground city that houses humanity after earth’s surface has become uninhabitable, City of Ember follows the exploits of two youngsters who find a magic box that provides clues on how to escape from the depths. The pundits say City of Ember has whimsy to spare, and should please younger viewers with its phantasmagorical imagery, but the plot is difficult to follow and character development is limited at best. At 46 percent on the Tomatometer, Ember doesn’t quite shine. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we take a closer look at the best-reviewed films of star Bill Murray‘s career.)

“Zuul will never find me here…”

It seems that Keira Knightley stars in every other British period piece these days. And, as The Duchess demonstrates, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Knightley stars as Georgiana Spenser, an ancestor of Princess Di’s, who becomes an 18th century style icon while navigating the rough waters of palace life. The pundits say The Duchess is a visual treat, and Knightly and Ralph Fiennes turn in excellent performances. However, some feel The Duchess is too frothy and melodramatic, and forgoes the meaty parts of Spenser’s real-life contributions in favor of obsessing over her frippery and fashion. The Duchess is at 61 percent on the Tomatometer.

Keira Knightley’s 346th birthday party was a pretty gloomy affair.

Apparently out of concern for critics’ physical well-being, Quarantine has been, ahem, quarantined, since reviews aren’t coming out until the day of its release. The film stars Jennifer Carpenter and Steve Harris as a television crew trapped in an apartment building where a strange outbreak of rabies is causing people to commit savage killings. Kids, guess that Tomatometer!

“This one-woman protest isn’t having the impact I’d hoped for.”

Also opening this week in
limited release:

Finally, we’d like to sing the praises of halose7en, who correctly guessed An American Carol‘s 14 percent Tomatometer.

Recent Leonardo DiCaprio Movies:

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