Will director Ridley Scott's Body of Lies be able to draw mainstream audiences to a film about terrorism?

Evaluating 'Body of Lies'

on October 09, 2008 by Phil Contrino
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With Body of Lies, director Ridley Scott will try to break the cinematic stigma that currently surrounds films that grapple with terrorism.

Not surprisingly, the trailer for Lies, and even most of the other promotion material, comes across as almost apolitical. In one particular scene that is featured in the preview, Russell Crowe's character jokes with his wife that the reason he is still up at 6 a.m. is that he is, "Saving civilization, honey." As the saying goes, a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.

Still, as mainstream as Lies may seem, it's entering theatres at a time when films in its genre aren't performing too well at the box office. Most recently, Traitor and The Kingdom have posted extremely modest financial returns after they decided to take on the kind of troubling scenarios that populate news headlines everyday. Since opening in August, Traitor has brought in $23.2 million and 2007's The Kingdom grossed only $47.5 million domestically, despite boasting the star power of Jamie Foxx and Jennifer Garner.

However, Walt Borchers, Senior VP of Sales and Marketing for Movietickets.com, is hesitant to group Lies into the recent crop of terrorism-themed films.

“Even though this movie takes place during the Iraq war, I don’t think it should be tossed into the Iraq war movie genre, as most of it takes place in Amman, Jordan. I would classify it as a spy thriller," said Borchers.

Movietickets.com recently conducted a poll which asked it's users, "CIA drama Body of Lies takes place during the Iraq War. Will the movie’s backdrop impact your decision to see it?" and 69% of the nearly 2,000 respondents answered "No."

Yet even if American audiences still aren't totally ready to deal with terrorism at the movies, foreign audiences may be more willing to. Borchers is quick to stress that the pairing of Scott and Crowe has a very strong following overseas.

“I think with this movie you’re going to have to look more at the worldwide gross. [ Lies ] is going to do well in the states, but I think it will do much better worldwide," Borchers said.

The proof is in the numbers. Scott's Gladiator brought in $456 million worldwide and less than half of that—around $187.7 million—came from domestic grosses. Meanwhile, American Gangster added $134.5 million from overseas markets to its $130 million U.S. haul.

Body of Lies hits theatres tomorrow.

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