Who’s In It: Russell Crowe, Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Strong
The Basics: We chase terrorists with high-tech surveillance and they turn around and go off the grid, confusing us at every turn and transforming American life into an unhappy mid-level hum of anxiety, argument, distrust and consumption. That’s the moral of this cat-and-cat-and-mouse story where the cats (Crowe and DiCaprio) do more fighting with each other than with their mutually agreed-upon target. One man lays his life on the line in the battle while the other calls shots from a desk and it's all in the service of a movie with a title that sounds like an early '90s erotic thriller starring Madonna.
What’s The Deal: As a metaphor for post-9/11 life during wartime, this movie is way less pointed, labored, obvious and a drag than… well, than just about every other post-9/11 life-during-wartime drama/thriller. That makes it better than most of those other films but it also makes it no less likely to be box office poison. When even wounded, heartbroken movies like In the Valley of Elah can’t find respect or ticketbuyers, you know it’s a bad time to be a politically aware filmmaker who isn’t working on a documentary.
Ready To Climb To The Top Of The Heap Of Failed Projects: If you’re keeping score that’s Lions for Lambs, Rendition, The Kingdom, Redacted, Stop-Loss and Traitor that have all more or less tanked while trying to take on this overwhelming subject matter. When the public stays away in droves from movie after movie, you might as well start thinking about making Fat Albert 2 instead. And the public has, for once, mostly gotten it right. Seriously, have you SEEN Lions For Lambs? No? Lucky you.
How Old Leo Looks In This One: Almost his age. He’s got that Departed facial hair and he’s never letting go of it again.
Symbolically Standing In For All Of America: Russell Crowe, in what will later be called an underrated performance, skillfully and chubbily navigating the destruction of life while eating a sandwich, sitting in an office maintaining a comfortable distance and Mr. Mom-ishly preparing snacks for his children.