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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Body Of Lies

Body of Lies
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Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio ... Roger Ferris

Russell Crowe ... Ed Hoffman

Mark Strong ... Hani

Golshifteh Farahani ... Aisha

Oscar Isaac ... Bassam

Ali Suliman ... Omar Sadiki

Body Of Lies Body Of Lies
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Synopsis: Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a covert CIA operative working in Jordan searching for terrorists who have been bombing civilian targets. Ferris uncovers information on the Islamist mastermind Al-Saleem (Alon Aboutboul). He devises a plan to infiltrate Al-Saleem's terrorist network with the help of his boss back in Langley, Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe). Ferris enlists the help of the Chief of Jordanian Intelligence, Hani Salaam (Mark Strong) on this operation, but he doesn't know how far he can trust him without putting his life in danger. The uneasy alliance leads to a cultural and moral clash between the men.

Review: Posted by Sean, on Film Junk

Movies related to the war in Iraq have been a pretty tough sell in the U.S. thus far. I guess it’s not that surprising; no one wants to go to the movies to get depressed when they can get enough of that from simply watching the news. But if you throw a little star power into the mix, suddenly people take notice. Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio are in this movie? It’s directed by the guy who did Gladiator and American Gangster? Now you’re talking.

The problem with Body of Lies is that it’s a big budget Hollywood movie that grossly oversimplifies things, throws big name actors into roles where they aren’t really believable, and in the end, it still manages to be way too dull to even satisfy on a pure entertainment level.

I’m a fan of modern globetrotting espionage flicks (something we’re seeing a bit more of thanks to the Bourne series) and I’m always willing to check out a movie that may have something intelligent to say about what’s going on in the Middle East. What’s more, I’m a fan of Ridley Scott, one of the few A-list directors who can successfully infuse blockbusters with a certain level of artistry and depth. All the right elements are present in Body of Lies, but somehow it just doesn’t ever coalesce into anything significant.

Based on the best-selling book by David Ignatius, the story centers on CIA agent Roger Ferris (DiCaprio) who is trying to infiltrate an Al Qaeda network in Jordan. Along the way, he is monitored by his supervisor (Crowe), who communicates via cell phone from the comfort and security of his home in the U.S. Ferris partners with Hani Salaam (Mark Strong), head of Jordanian intelligence, but when the higher-ups in the CIA demand immediate results, Ferris is forced to go behind Salaam’s back. Along the way, Ferris also starts a relationship with a young female nurse named Aisha (Golshifteh Farahani), which eventually puts her at risk as well.

Body Of Lies Body Of Lies
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I didn’t really buy either Leonardo DiCaprio or Russell Crowe in this movie. Crowe reportedly gained 63 pounds for his part, which could be the most useless body transformation ever. His role could have been played by anyone at all, and although I found it kind of amusing that he quarterbacked the whole operation while driving his kids to soccer practice, Crowe’s actual performace was a carbon copy of many we’ve seen from him previously. DiCaprio, on the other hand, was sufficiently intense and charming, but did not for a second seem like someone who could blend seamlessly into the Arab culture.

Ridley Scott’s direction is, for the most part, competent, however, he rehashes a lot of the same old tricks we’ve seen before (ie. light beams shining through bullet holes, etc.). The Middle Eastern locales make for some interesting scenery, although after a while the endless shifts in geography start to blur together.

The screenplay for Body of Lies was written by William Monaghan, who also did The Departed, and it certainly feels like it. There is a lot of verbal sparring and tough guy one-liners that really didn’t feel appropriate in this particular movie. The love interest subplot is just a little too convenient in a movie that is already overcrowded with details, and exists for the sole purpose of giving DiCaprio’s character a weakness.

I was hoping for something like Syriana (a movie that admittedly went slightly over my head), but Body of Lies is not as smart nor as subtle. It drags a lot throughout the second half, and with all the deception that’s going on, after a while it’s hard to keep track of what all the characters are even trying to accomplish.

There are a few decent action sequences, and there is a pretty intense scene towards the end where Ferris is captured by the terrorist group, that kind of jolted me out of the half-snoozing state I was in. Of course, this is also where the movie decided to get all self-righteous, and Leonardo DiCaprio’s character started spouting off a rant against fundamentalism that just felt trite. On top of that, the scene kind of seemed a bit cheap and underhanded since it plays on imagery we’ve seen far too many times before.

Ultimately, the movie ends with a bit of a whimper, and the whole story seems absolutely pointless. Maybe the movie was meant to reinforce the fact that the U.S. is completely helpless when it comes to intelligence in the Middle East, and that terrorism is part of a vicious cycle. Either way, it didn’t make for a very satisfying movie, and it certainly didn’t tell us anything we didn’t know before. With Iraq-related movies like this, it’s no wonder the general public is choosing to turn a blind eye towards them. — Sean


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