Genre: Spy and Political Thriller Running Time: 2 hrs. 8 min.
Release Date: October 10th, 2008 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Ridley Scott Actors: Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe, Mark Strong, Golshifteh Farahani, Oscar Isaac, Ali Suliman, Lubna Azabal
decidedly deceptive trailer makes Ridley Scott’s new covert operations film “Body of Lies” seem like a battle of wits between Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe. But the film actually delves much deeper into the bedlam of secret missions, double-crosses, and sabotage inherent in political and military interactions, while also dealing nail-biting suspense at every turn. Although the story looks like fuel for a Tony Scott (Ridley’s brother) project, a la “Spy Game,” the sheer intensity, violence, immediacy, and realism of the cinematography (by Alexander Witt, the second unit director of photography on “The Hunt for Red October” and “The Bourne Identity”) has Ridley’s signature all over it.
Based on David Ignatius’ 2007 novel about CIA operative Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio), “Body of Lies” follows his undercover operations around Iraq, Jordan (Amman), Dubai, Turkey, Syria, the U.S., and more. Ferris’ primary goal is to track and ultimately destroy a major terrorist cell. But every move he makes is under aerial surveillance and the vigilant eye of Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe), a direct superior who continually yet unintentionally interferes to a detrimental degree with crucial missions.
Every objective is surrounded by side missions, conflicting intelligence gathering, and betrayals from both the U.S. government and the Jordan secret police group, headed by Hani Salaam (Mark Strong). As the media is manipulated, along with every international group involved in the uncovering of terrorist bombings across Europe, Ferris invents a fictitious alternate terrorist brotherhood to ferret out Al-Saleem (Alon Aboutboul), a top man known to be involved with the majority of the anonymous attacks. As Hoffman works to preserve his agents’ involvement, and Hani feeds his own ego, Ferris is confronted with several shocking revelations and ultimatums that could lead to his death – as well as that of his newfound love interest, a nurse named Aisha (Golshifteh Farahani).
“Body of Lies” doesn’t slow down to let the viewer catch up to all of the fast-talking political jargon, in-depth public opinion trajectory issues, and the guerilla warfare tactics employed by the allegedly unsophisticated enemy. If one were to blink and miss something, there’s no handy supporting character to rely on for reiteration. But this breakneck pace, coupled with dramatic action (relentless explosions and firefights, fierce chase sequences, grueling torture, and continual brushes with death), allows for blistering intensity and a deft examination of suspenseful progressions of cinematic verve. Scott persists with plenty of close-ups that keep audiences on the edge of their seats, anxious over the next bullet or bomb that will inevitably strike at the least anticipated moment.
While the structure found within “Body of Lies” is commonplace for Scott’s films (and something of a letdown for the spy genre in general), the flawless acting by both Crowe and DiCaprio, paired with an intricate plot of shifting allegiances, keeps the thrills on a course of steady escalation. A few of the twists may be predictable, but the deceptive motives of each character will keep viewers guessing until the very end. Though it may not be Scott’s best effort, “Body of Lies” certainly retains the finest elements of the masterful director’s style, attention to detail, and cunning arrangements of tension-filled adventure – here, also tackling the heavier political and societal contentions between the Middle East and the West.
– The Massie Twins