Body of Lies

2008-12-12 10:20
Body of Lies
What it's about:

Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a CIA field agent situated in Iraq who is slowly becoming disillusioned with his role in America’s so-called War on Terror. He carries out countless dangerous missions with a high cost in human life, while his superior, Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe) directs his every move from American soil, keeping him under constant satellite surveillance. When intelligence surfaces that notorious terrorist mastermind Al-Saleem (Alon Aboutboul) is in Jordan, Ferris makes contact with the head of Jordanian intelligence, Hani (Mark Strong), and soon finds himself caught in a battle of wills between the two men.

What we thought of it:

Ridley Scott’s Body of Lies was supposed to be a one of the year’s big blockbusters, but lost out to appalling garbage about talking dogs and singing high school students. It’s not that surprising really, as Body of Lies is a compelling and intelligent film that demands attention – so not all that palatable in these sad times when people would like nothing more than to forget their woes. It is good news if you're after something with intelligence.

The main thrust of the film is the balance between the first hand experiences of Roger Ferris and the intricate espionage behind the scenes. Leonardo DiCaprio is excellent in the role of a man who is always trying to do the right thing for his country, yet simultaneously coping with decisions he disagrees with. He exudes tightly controlled stress at every turn, whether he is in a combat situation, negotiating for information, negotiating for his life, or simply trying to be a normal human being. The crowning achievement is the scene in which he does lose control, and his terrified desperation hits like a gut punch from a pro.

Ferris is in almost constant contact with his superior, Ed Hoffman, both of them connected via satellite to their Bluetooth headsets. Russell Crowe pulls off another star performance as the sleazy CIA chief, coming across as half good old boy, half shifty-eyed snake.

The scenes in which he is actively directing Ferris are some of the best in the entire film, with Hoffman watching his children’s sports day while guiding his operative on the ground through various life or death situations. Hoffman never loses his cool, and you can almost see his mind scheming as he goes through the motions of a normal life.

The great thing about Body of Lies is that it never tries to dumb down the extremely complicated nature of international espionage, yet never slows down to a crawl, like many inferior spy movies. There are some scenes which could have been pepped up a little, but for most part there is a sense of urgency in everything that happens, from the gun battles to high-tech hacking. Even though it takes pains to show all the organisation and covert workings of war, it always returns to the brutal reality and human cost.

While I would recommend Body of Lies, it is not Ridley Scott’s best film by any means. The pacing occasionally drops below the level of thrilling, and even though it isn’t a balls-to-the-wall action movie like Black Hawk Down (2001), it could have been as viscerally exciting. On the plus side, the acting is superb, the story captivating, and if you are in the mood for a film of substance, check it out.

- Ivan Sadler

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An intelligence agent is sent to Jordan to locate a terrorist mastermind, and must bridge the gap between his American superiors and the Jordanian security forces.

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