The CIAs hunt is on for the mastermind of a wave of terrorist attacks. Roger Ferris is the agencys man on the ground, moving from place to place, scrambling to stay ahead of ever-shifting events. An eye in the sky a satell... more »ite link watches Ferris. At the other end of that real-time link is the CIAs Ed Hoffman, strategizing events from thousands of miles away. And as Ferris nears the target, he discovers trust can be just as dangerous as it is necessary for survival. Leonardo DiCaprio (as Ferris) and Russell Crowe (as Hoffman) star in Body of Lies, adapted by William Monahan (The Departed) from the David Ignatius novel. Ridley Scott (American Gangster, Black Hawk Down) directs this impactful tale, orchestrating exciting action sequences and plunging viewers into a bold spy thriller for our time.« less
More of a war movie (along the lines of Jarhead or Rendition) than an action flick, so not my bag. I was surprised to learn that this so-so movie was based on a screenplay written by William Monahan, who also wrote the very excellent "The Departed."
Ridley Scott Does It Again...
Justin Heath | Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada | 10/11/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"You really have to admire Ridley Scott's moxie.
Even though the 70-year-old director has long established himself as one of Hollywood's best and most durable directors; having helmed some of the most entertaining films of all time, in virtually every genre (including sci-fi classics like Alien and Blade Runner); and having been nominated no less than three times for the Best Director Oscar (Thelma & Louise, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down), to decide to take on theme that has produced exactly zero blockbusters thus far - the Middle East and terrorism - takes an incredible amount of chutzpah.
But it does help if you have the help of two of the biggest actors in Hollywood at the moment, those being Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe (who has worked with Scott on two previous films, Gladiator and A Good Year). It's ironic to think that the last time these two actors shared the screen was back in 1995, with the clichéd-but-entertaining oater The Quick and the Dead. Of course, at the time, Crowe was a complete unknown and DiCaprio was a 21-year-old newcomer with only a couple of notable titles under his belt. But oh, how that's all changed now.
It's not easy to describe the plot of Body of Lies without giving too much away. DiCaprio plays CIA operative Roger Ferris, who is trying to flush out a terrorist leader named Al-Saleem in Jordan. He gets his orders from Ed Hoffman (Crowe), a man for whom results are the only satisfactory outcome, delivered with a fair amount of arrogance and a cocky Southern drawl. Ed plays the situation like a kid playing a video game, and has the resources to change the rules anytime he feels like it, dispensing his orders from his office, from his backyard, from his daughter's soccer game, for Pete's sake! This, of course, infuriates Ferris to no end, because he is the one who is in the trenches, chasing the bad guys, dodging bullets, ducking explosions, and procuring the badly-needed intelligence that Hoffman needs. Ferris is also trying to build a productive working relationship with the head of Jordanian Intelligence, Hani Salaam (Mark Strong), a relationship that is made even more tenuous by Hoffman's double-dealings and hidden agendas.
There are so many ways that Scott could have screwed this up. A lesser director might have chosen to ramp up the action, sacrificing intelligence for entertainment. A lesser director could have taken this story of espionage and twisted it into a convoluted and indecipherable Gordian knot. A lesser director would have gotten less convincing performances from his lead actors.
But Ridley Scott is not a lesser director. Though the plot is indeed complex, with many layers and sub-layers, deceit and treachery, Scott never lets you lose sight of the overall picture. He tells a solid, wonderfully entertaining story, without the need to drive home its message with sledgehammer subtlety (after all, very few things are black and white). And most of all, he gets electric performances from Crowe and DiCaprio, whose symbiotic relationship with a thinly-veiled veneer of mutual contempt is a pleasure to watch.
I don't know if Body of Lies will end up breaking through the barrier that every movie in this genre couldn't; but for what it's worth, I hope it does. One thing's for sure... if anybody can, Ridley Scott can."
""Body of Lies" is a taut, riveting thriller that weaves a tale of terrorism, espionage, and betrayal amid the current landscape of violence and retribution in the Middle East. The film is based on the novel by David Ignatius.
Leonardo DiCaprio continues to prove that he's got the acting chops and is believable in action films. Here he plays Roger Ferris, a CIA operative working to track down a bin Ladenesque terrorist named Al-Saleem. Al-Saleem's trail leads Ferris to Jordan, where he must balance working with and between his CIA handler (played with relish by an overweight, aged Russell Crowe) and the head of Jordanian intelligence (brilliantly played by Mark Strong), who are working at crosspurposes with each other. Ferris further complicates his mission by falling for an Iranian nurse (played by Golshifteh Farahani).
The movie uses wild technology, lies and counterlies, torture, and Ferris' growing disdain with the intelligence community. Some of the movie seems quite fanciful, and maybe it is, but except for a couple of places, it holds up as a brutually honest thriller.
"Body of Lies" isn't perfect, but it doesn't have to be. It's fiction. Some may find it unbelievable, but it's a movie, and that means it doesn't have to get everything right. It just has to entertain, and it certainly does."
A Smart Spy Thriller That Is Utterly Current
David Keymer | Modesto CA | 10/17/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Munich, then Syriana, and now Body of Lies. All smart, smart, smart spy thrillers, and all current. David Ignatius is a columnist for the Washington Post on international affairs. On the side, he is one of the best writers of spy fiction writing currently: he is, on a par with Robert Littell and Charles McCarry and, at most, a half step behind John Le Carre. Lies unfolds in the modern Middle East, Iraq and then Jordan, with sidesteps to Turkey and Dubai. (In the first scene in Dubai, one of our favorite buildings in Dubai was in the background, the Hotel Dusit.) Di Caprio plays a young CIA field agent. Crowe is his aging fat-around-the-middle handler and superior back in Washington, a man who cannot stop double-dealing, even with his own agents. Their objective is to entrap the head of an effective and up till then subterranean terrorist agency. If they cut off the head of the movement, they hope, the body will die. The movie plays out in a cascade of episodes, many of them grisly and all effective. Shot alternately in closeup (handheld cameras) and long shot (the view from overhead spy planes), they show the viewer how difficult it is to operate in an alien terrain where the enemies don't play by the rules. (The terrorists don't use cell phones or email so there's nothing to track.) In desperation, Di Caprio sets up a sting operation: he creates a false backtrail that insinuates that there is a second jihadist group out there drawing attention away from the master terrorist that Di Caprio and Crowe seek to capture. Di Caprio's sting leads to the death of an innocent and to Di Caprio's capture and torture - it's rough stuff, all of it, but it has the smell of truth to it. The movie is effectively filmed and efficiently plotted; the acting is always adequate and often much more than that. Russell Crowe is excellent (what a good actor he is!), Di Caprio is adequate to good, and Mark Strong as Hami, the head of Jordanian counter-intelligence, is absolutely superb. Body is really good."
Ridley Scott tackles politics in the way only Ridley Scott c
T. Noever | Brisbane, Australia | 10/10/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Films involving 'current events'--particularly those relating to anything happening in the Middle East and Terrorism--tend to be soaked in the writers', producers' and director's politics, which usually end up very much in-your-face and spoil the film, because you suddenly lose the story and drown in the preaching and proselytizing.
Ridley Scott, who has already addressed the West-East/Christianity-Islam issue in a previous film, 'Kingdom of Heaven', this time bit the bullet (instead of the sword) and continued KoH's story about 1000 years later. 'Body of Lies' is very much a Ridley Scott movie and this translates into the film's politics as well. Thing is, you can't leave politics out of a political movie; and so what do you do?
Well, here's a newsflash for the poli-preachers on all sides: it's possible to have it all, and just watch Ridley Scott do it. Just like KoH, it's all about even-handedness and realizing that (1) every side in a conflict has a point of view, which, to itself, is perfectly valid; and (2) every side has people you'd probably like and some you really wouldn't, (3) the way to peace lies with understanding (1) and (2); and not with having just one point of view, no matter how righteous it may appear. Both, Islamophobes and Islamophiles--or those on the extremes of any aspect of the political spectrum--will probably find ample elements to dislike about this film. Others of a more moderate and even-handed disposition will find much to like and appreciate.
All of this, rather profound, stuff is wrapped up in a gritty Ridley Scott production and direction, that keeps your full attention for its full 2+ hours. Leonardo DiCaprio has really grown up and cast off his annoying persona, which was so prominent in just about all his movies; until 'Blood Diamond' came along. Russell Crowe is basically a secondary character, eclipsed almost completely by DiCaprio and Mark Strong. The latter has come a long way since I first saw him in the BBC production of Jane Austen's 'Emma'. The gentle and understated romance element provided by Golshifteh Farahani as 'Aisha' provided a nice contrast to the testosterone-soaked male world in which this drama plays out.
The movie confirms what I've known for a long time: Ridley Scott apparently can do no wrong."
Body of Lies... Believable at Best!
Gulshan Batra | India | 10/25/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Director and Producer Ridley Scott and Screenwriter William Monahan have created a memorable tale of our conflicting times, with lots of grey (metaphorically as well as literally) and very few whites and blacks.
Overtly put, the movie is simply the story of CIA covert operations agent in the Middle East, Roger Ferris, and his handler back at Langley, Ed Hoffman and one particular operation that they get into. Throw in a Jordanian Chief of Intelligence, Hani, who is sauve, sophisticated and patient with his own game plan quite different from the harried ploys the CIA is prone to use, and a master terrorist, Al-Saleem who is currently registering hits around the world and you get a pot-boiler, with remnants of Munich, Syriana, The Traitor...
Even though realistic depictions are gaining momentum in Hollywood of late, it must have taken a very brave Ridley Scott to take the dive so soon after the strain has appeared on the wall. But, trust Scott to do a good job - as he has always done.
The movie is a taut, psychological thriller, with double dealing & triple dealings galore, and terror is everywhere you look. Trust no one, Deceive everyone. That's the tagline on the movie posters, and the movie does complete justice to that theme.
Crowe is a middle-aged CIA handler, warming the benches back in Langley, (supposedly) doing all the planning and winning all the wars by himself. He takes this war on terror as a regular part of life, so much so that he is shown talking to DeCaprio while dropping his kids to school, while eating his cereal breakfast, while cheering his daughter during her soccer game! Sure, he has a right to a life, but I get the feeling Scott wanted to show the relative importance that making these decisions has for Hoffman, while DiCaprio's putting his life on the line. Talking of DiCaprio, he's a CIA field agent in the volatile Middle East - Iran, Jordan, Dubai - who sees human casualties with much more seriousness than his boss back in Langley. As a result of his thinly veiled dislike for his superior's ways-of-working, he developes a close rapport with the Jordanian Chief of Intelligence, played with an uncanny dexterity by Mark Strong, whose style is to let the small fish live, so that it can lead him back to the real big fish out in the ocean, and then he can move in for the kill. Patience is his virtue, something that CIA has not really appreciated so far, and so his natural disbelief of DiCaprio makes it that much more difficult for the latter to gain his trust.
The story moves through the streets of Iran, and Amman, and Dubai with deals going through and going wrong simultaneously, the stakes are real and bomb blasts are not just on TV.
The direction is terrific, and the acting is superb. The southern drawl of Crowe's character is like the icing on the cake - shows his (repeated) contempt for all other intelligence agencies. No wonder he equates himself with America, when Ferris has to make a choice... but - I'm not going to reveal anything more.