Body Of Lies


Reviewed by: Stephen Carty

Body Of Lies
"Body Of Lies is so bogged down with plot developments and dull exposition that it doesn't really have time for anything else."

A film by director Ridley Scott that features both Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe has got to be worth watching, right? Wrong. Though well-made and full of aesthetically-pleasing visuals as you’d expect from the viewfinder-focused filmmaker, Body Of Lies is plot-heavy, lacking in any sort of character or depth and is as dry as the sandy dessert that Ferris gets picked up from.

Plot-wise, after almost getting blown-up in Iraq, CIA Agent Roger Ferris (DiCaprio) is sent to Jordan to find an al-Qaeda terrorist leader. However, with his overbearing boss Ed Homman (Crowe) constantly running side-operations that will compromise his safety, Ferris falls out of favour with diplomatic contact Hani (Mark Strong) and finds that his new girlfirend (Golshifteh ) has been kidnapped.

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While movies that require the audience to think are usually to be applauded, Scott’s latest is too intricate for its own good. Based on Washington Post columnist David Ignatius’ novel of the same name, the plot might boast an unshowy non-glamourised realism, but its jargon-filled foreign-policy heavy narrative will either lose those not up to date with the current geopolitical situation or bore those not interested. Far too often it’s unclear what the mission is, why events are supposed to be significant and what certain conversations mean. Never mind the who or why.

One of the other problems facing Body Of Lies is that it doesn’t really have anything unique to offer. The Middle East-set terrorism angle was spun more impressively last year with The Kingdom, Scott’s already given us his take on the modern-day East vs. West war with Black Hawk Down and it’s the second time in recent years that DiCaprio has played the goateed tough-guy working abroad given his role in Blood Diamond. While the torture scene towards the end offers something bordering on memorable, the biggest talking-point on show is probably Leo's Lionadis-esque beard.

Here, Scott's attempt to give the picture its own unique direction is the relationship between DiCaprio's 'field-agent man-on-the-ground' and Crowe's 'decision-making Langley-based superior'. Unfortunately, there's no spark, the leads have little-to-no chemistry and their dynamic ultimately boils down to verbal sparring across bluetooth headsets.

This is particularly surprising when you consider that screenwriter William Monaghan has worked with both Scott and DiCaprio before on Kingdom Of Heaven and The Departed respectively. Though these reunions should have provided sparky dialogue and some electric exchanges, Body Of Lies is so bogged down with plot developments and dull exposition that it doesn't really have time for anything else. You know the type; there's a lot of talking but nothing is really said.

As for the marquee names, both DiCaprio and Crowe earn pass marks, but neither are sufficiently (read remotely) fleshed-out that we care about them beyond x and y. Leo is questionable as the hard man (despite playing a mafia-infiltrating cop and a South African ex-mercenary in recent years) and Russell has us asking what the hell he's done with that intensity that oozed out of Maximus' every pore. On the other hand, Strong's supporting turn is the best thing about the movie as he gives lessons in how to exude subtle manipulation and sweat-indicuing menace.

Relentlessly focused on plot and extremely characterisation-lite, Ridley Scott's latest is more proof than he's more interested in the news channel than drama. Though early reports suggested a lot of promise, it seems they were all a body of lies.

Reviewed on: 30 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:

Angus Wolfe Murray ****
Richard Mellor ***1/2

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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