Tuesday, March 09, 2004

The Body (2001)

Vacuum Energy rating: no stars
Background information about "The Body" is available at The Internet Movie Database

We begin with an excavation digging yards down into the rear yard of a Palestinian storekeeper in Jerusalem and lead by Israeli archeologist Sharon Golban. A tomb has been uncovered, with a conveniently placed coin right inside the entrance for dating purposes and a secret room containing human remains. The remains bear marks of a crucifixion. Sharon is the scientifically minded type, but her colleague Father Lavelle immediately deduces from the Pilate-era coin that a highly provactive find of the remains of you know who has been made and, upon visiting the tomb and examining the body, he emerges visibly shaken. Terrible, terrible discoveries are at hand, so much so that Father Gutierrez, a faithful priest with a past in military intelligence, is sent out to Jerusalem on a mission to pre-emptively debunk the discovery.

(Note: the discovery for the most part debunks itself for those of you who have been paying a little attention to current events. The moment Sharon decides it was one nail through the feet instead of two for our poor victim, the game is up.)

Now that you've got the basic storyline, the rest of the movie plays out like a American liberal's wet dream. We have discussions about the interactions between religous faith, scientific honesty and pragmatic politics, scheming Israeli politicians, conniving Roman Catholic priests, sneaky Palestinian terrorists, and power struggles between shifiting alliances of political factions. For every unflattering character there is an equal and opposite sympathetic character. And to top it all off, all of the action depends upon those "nuances" of scientific fact that become more and more convincing as more and more evidence is deduced. The action is a little asymmetric, in the sense that the Israel government is, still, basically, the Israeli government, while our main Palestinian terrorist leader seems to think that having two or three goons to boss around makes him some kind of globe-spanning terrorist mastermind; I've seen bad guys from "The A-Team" that have more firepower at their command.

On the other hand, "The Body" is also a movie reviewer's wet dream because you can pretty much call this one in advance. Antonio Banderas' job as Father Gutierrez is to get paired up with the fairly attractive Olivia Williams as Sharon Golban. He first makes a token effort to debunk the excavation while she complains about political agendas getting in the way of her work. As more and more evidence of the identity of the remains is uncovered, Father Gutierrez is logically forced to question his beliefs to a greater and greater degree until he breaks down and bonds emotionally with Sharon, who by this time is attracted by his good looks and intellectual integrity. The one brownie point the movie earns is that Father Gutierrez at least doesn't sleep with her because he is still a priest, but he at least avoids the inexplicable case of histrionic movie-madness that afflicts Father Lavelle.

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