Body of Lies is a dramatic thriller set mostly in the Middle East and is based on Washington Post columnist David Ignatius’ 2007 novel about a CIA operative. Leonardo Dicaprio plays Roger Ferris the agent who uncovers a lead concerning a major terrorist leader suspected to be operating out of Jordan. When Ferris devises a plan to infiltrate his network, he must first win the backing of cunning CIA veteran Ed Hoffman ( Russell Crowe) and the head of Jordanian intelligence. As the story unfolds and the stakes get higher, Ferris begins to question how far he can really trust these men without putting his entire operation and his life in jeopardy.
Crowe is the armchair general running the operation and plotting the strategy by cell phone, headset and laptop while baby-sitting his kids in the states. Despite their shared goals and mutual dependence, Ferris and Hoffman often end up miscommunicating and undermining each other. This becomes especially true when Ferris unites with the smooth Jordanian intelligence chief Hani ( Mark Strong, who looks like a doppelganger for Andy Garcia), a man who holds Hoffman in disdain and has been reluctant to aid in the CIA’s efforts. Hani is impeccably dressed and respectful, but that classy demeanor only makes his dark side more frightening.
As if to ease the tension of Dicaprio’s predicament, the story has him falling in love with an Iranian nurse ( Golshifteh Farahani) when he is wounded in Amman. It’s obvious the relationship is a device meant to reveal whatever glimmers of humanity Ferris may have left in this deadly world, but it feels contrived. It’s also a way to introduce a female figure, but her presence seems like something out of an old-fashioned war movie. Right from the start, you know that somehow she will get caught up in the danger or be used as a pawn to get to Dicaprio.
There is great chemistry between Dicaprio and Crowe although they are rarely on screen together. It’s reassuring to know that Dicaprio and Crowe are hot on the trail of El Qaeda mastermind, Al-Saleem and devises a plan to nab the terrorist, after all other measures fail. Why didn’t we think of this before to get Osama Bin Laden? This is Dicaprio’s and Crowes first film together since they co-starred together in the Sam Raimi western The Quick and the Dead in which Dicaprio was still wet-behind-the-ears and Crowe had not yet been introduced to the American audience. They both have come a long way.
Director Ridley Scott keeps the action and the story moving with an excellent script penned by scribe William Monahan who won an Academy Award for The Departed. War and battle are all too familiar territory to Scott who seems to thrive on bloody, confrontational films. American Gangster, Black Hawk Down, Gladiator, the list goes on. Scott seamlessly blends footage shot by overhead drones with sequences from the cramped streets below. Yet the result, with its many explosions and shootouts, too often feels like a generic action picture. It’s as if Scott felt they needed to make the material palatable to the widest possible audience.
With the current controversy over whether or not the US should continue to be involved in the war, Body of Lies hits a nerve with it’s cloak and dagger fictionalized story. All that being said, I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it, (unlike some of the Middle Eastern themed war films being made and released recently.
Body of Lies is rated R for strong violence including torture and language.
Running time: 128 minutes