Body Of Lies

Body Of Lies

****

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

As thrillers become more complex in their execution, political thrillers, especially those involving MI6, or the CIA, are virtually opaque now. If you thought Syriana difficult to follow, Body Of Lies will have your brain for breakfast. Forget about goodies and baddies. Both sides commit crimes against humanity, even though there is no conflict, unless you count the vaguely meaningless War On Terror, or the ghastly legacy of the Bush administration in the ancient lands.

Ridley Scott is a master craftsman. The look of Body Of Lies is stunning. He captures the crowded, dirt dusted, rubble wrecked streets of the Middle East with an artist's eye. If nowhere is safe, everywhere is lethal. Tension throbs in the fetid heat.

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Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio) is the CIA's man in the border regions of Iraq, under the specific control of Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe), a desk bound operative in Langley, Virginia. He speaks Arabic and is on the way to going native when he is given the top job in Amman, Jordan. He is good at what he does. He has been on the front line of anti-terrorist espionage long enough to distrust his colleagues and respect his enemies. He has scars to prove it.

As far as one can make out, Ferris is attempting to infiltrate - not personally - an al-Qaeda safe house, as well as capture, or kill, an elusive religious leader. He seeks the help of the Jordanian secret police chief, the debonair Hani (Mark Strong), whose methods may be brutal, but whose integrity is uncompromising ("Never lie to me").

With US surveillance drones, hovering in the skies above potential danger zones, the CIA can watch in detail what is happening on the Arab streets thousands of miles away, which gives Langley the illusion that they control "the war." Hoffman is in the Donald Rumsfold mould of arrogant cynicism, whose dislike and ignorance of the Muslim mentality takes the form of American Might Is Right, So Do What You Are Told.

This is an extremely well made movie, with exacting performances of the highest quality from DiCaprio and Strong. Even the budding love interest between Ferris and an Iranian nurse (Golshifteh Farahani) is treated with sensitivity and a touch of humour. The problem lies with Crowe, who had to pile on the pounds to look like a fat slob, with a Bluetooth hands-free phone stuck in his ear at all times, even when dropping his daughter off at soccer. Hoffman is the personification of George Dubya's foreign policy. While Ferris's energy and savvy is close to the ground, Hoffman exists as a reactionary bully in some information bubble, protected by technology and prejudice, and Crowe has little chance to inject a soupcon of humanity.

Reviewed on: 21 Nov 2008
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Counter-terrorist thriller about a CIA operative in the Middle East and his US-based 'handler'.
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Read more Body Of Lies reviews:

Richard Mellor ***1/2
Stephen Carty **

Director: Ridley Scott

Writer: William Monahan, based on the novel by David Ignatius

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe, Mark Strong, Golshifteh Farahani, Oscar Isaac, Ali Suliman

Year: 2008

Runtime: 128 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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