Body of Lies (2008)
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William Monahan, David Ignatius
Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe, Mark Strong, Carice van Houten, Oscar Isaac, Vince Colosimo, Michael Gaston, Golshifteh Farahani, Ali Suliman, Simon McBurney, Jennifer Rouse, Clara Khoury, Omar Berdouni, Lubna Azabal, Vedant Gokhale, Allen Lidkey, Matt Gulbranson, Alexander von Roon, Alon Abutbul, Larry Carter, Terry Ward, Scot Cregan, Thomas M. Hagen, Jordan Lage, Devin Rumer, Patrick Michael Strange, Tom Townsend, Daniel Ferro, Kevin L, Juan Pablo Veizaga, Jamil Khoury, Ben Youcef, Kirk Lambert, Christopher Phillips, Bijan Daneshmand, Roger Sands, Shredi Jabarin, Ali Khalil, Michael James Faradie, Alexander Rajic, Sami Samir, Quentin Mare, Travis McHenry, Dino A. Muminovic, Rhett Coates, Art Hall, Jose L. Penaranda, Mehdi Nebbou, Janan Ferdosi, Vasanth Santosham, Zef Balbona, Shredi Jabarin
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|Movie Review by Jarrod |
October 11th, 2008
'Body of Lies' is an intriguing, densely plotted thriller that stands as Ridley Scott's most cohesive and compelling film since Black Hawk Down, or maybe American Gangster; this is his fourth collaboration with Russell Crowe and his first with DiCaprio, both of whom add a lot of prestige to this flick.
There are distinct parallels to the Don Cheadle movie Traitor, but 'Body of Lies' is more complicated, more violent, more action-packed, with stunts and sequences that could have been pulled right from the James Bond universe, not to mention all that high-tech gadgetry and the presence of a seemingly invincible agent who can blend in with practically any environment, and is conversant in multiple languages, the most useful of which is Arabic, since most of his time is spent in the Middle East, tracking an elusive terrorist network obviously modeled after Al-Qaeda. This agent is Roger Ferris (DiCaprio), who is deep in hostile territory, and has to flush out terrorist mastermind Al Saleem, operating secretly somewhere in Jordan.
Ferris is in constant contact with his CIA handler Ed Hoffman (Crowe), a no-nonsense professional who issues orders when they are necessary, but also leaves Ferris some wiggle room, knowing that he must remain flexible, ready to adapt quickly to situations as they arise. Of course, Ferris keeps Hoffman informed of pretty much everything, and Hoffman is tucked away safely with his family at a nice lakeside estate, struggling with paternal responsibilities and carrying on conversations in his bathrobe.
It seems implausible that Ferris can always get near-perfect reception on that headset of his, which looks like a Bluetooth device, but must be far more advanced, since he can clearly talk to Hoffman thousands of miles away, in any location, whether the desert, or a crowded urban street. Background noise and electronic interference are irrelevant. Al Saleem is responsible for hundreds of bombing deaths, but not much is known about him personally, or his agenda; all acts of terrorism have a motive, and I was never able to figure out what Al Saleem was trying to accomplish. To catch him, Ferris is instructed to team up with the smart, ruthless, and manipulative Hani Salaam (Mark Strong), head of Jordanian security.
It is a rocky alliance; Hani expects Ferris to listen to him, and does not care if he is undermining Hoffman's authority in the process. Ferris's grand scheme involves setting up a fake terrorist organization to rival that of Al Saleem's, assuming that the competition will drive him out into the open, which does not make much sense to me, but perhaps Al Saleem is really that arrogant or foolish, or maybe he would simply be curious, or try to merge this organization with his own. To give his fake organization some legitimacy, Ferris provides a tangible Jihadist, in the form of Omar (Ali Suliman), an architect from Dubai.
This, of course, puts Omar at great risk, and Ferris will try to save him when the time comes. Like the mercenary he played in Blood Diamond, DiCaprio's character here will also start to question the morality of his activities, and grow increasingly disillusioned with them; look for a redemptive opportunity of some sort. Ferris's ultimate survival involves what I feel is an example of deus ex machina; it is a cheap and absurd contrivance that insults the intelligence of the viewer. However, it is preceded by a gruesomely well-done torture sequence that is bound to leave some audience members squirming in their seats.
DiCaprio and Crowe give solid performances; DiCaprio is more intense and has more to do, but Crowe makes Hoffman into an interesting creature of logic, who remains level-headed and calm even in the worst of scenarios. Strong is terrific, and I also liked the gentle and sweet Golshifteh Farahani as Aisha, the nurse Ferris falls for in Amman. He knows from her accent that she is originally from Iran, and their romance is made difficult by the fact that she, as a Muslim woman, is not really supposed to be dating a Westerner, all of her relationships must meet with the approval of whoever occupies the dominant male role in her family.
The screenplay comes from William Monahan, who won an Oscar for The Departed; he piles on the details, so a quick trip to the bathroom would probably cause you to miss out on something important. Yes, the story is multilayered and complex, so trying to sort out everything is quite a task. One nice visual flourish was the use of satellite imagery; so remarkably accurate are these satellites that they can pinpoint Ferris's physical location, zooming in on him as he walks down a busy street in the middle of a large city. Such omniscient surveillance would have to make Ferris paranoid at some point, if he were aware it existed, which I am sure he does, unless he was never told by his superiors.
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