Short version: Body of Lies delivers excellent performances along with realistic action, suspense and drama.
Screen Rant reviews Body of Lies
My impression of Body of Lies based on the commercials and trailers was that it was going to be a taught, intense thriller – much more grounded in reality than your typical spy movie.
In that regard I was not disappointed, but while it was quite riveting – some aspects of the story did bug me. Some of it was based on my personal views, but some of it was not.
In Body of Lies, Leonardo DiCaprio plays Roger Ferris, a CIA covert operative whose background is never divulged. He works in the Middle East and ends up in Jordan searching for terrorists who have been bombing European civilian targets. In Jordan he uncovers information about Islamist radical leader Al-Saleem (Alon Aboutboul). Ferris devises a plan to infiltrate Al-Saleem’s terrorist network with the help of his boss back in Washington D.C., Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe). Ferris takes over the local CIA office and engages the help of the Chief of Jordanian Intelligence, Hani Salaam (Mark Strong) on the operation.
Unfortunately Ferris not only doesn’t know how far he can trust Salaam, but cannot trust Hoffman either – both of which could put his life in danger.
Ridley Scott gives us an excellent sense of what a close up view of the war on terrorism is like – not only from the point of view of government officials but more intimately, from the “men on the ground.” Between his performance in Blood Diamond and this film, Leo DiCaprio has actually made the transition from bright-faced young man in Titanic to what I would call a “real man.” Sure, they still seem to feel the need to put a beard on him to make him look older, but he surprises me with a screen presence that harkens back to old-school leading men.
Russel Crowe put on a bunch of weight for his performance and is excellent as usual. Besides DiCaprio, a big hero and focal point in the film is Mark Strong (who reminded me a hell of a lot of Andy Garcia) as the Jordanian Chief of Intelligence. He gives a powerful and convincing performance.
There is plenty of realistic action and suspense in the film and there isn’t much of either the annoying “quick edit” or “camera shake” technique that is so popular in films lately. The movie sucks you in for the most part, but kind of loses you when it gets to the romance between DiCaprio and a local nurse. Their romance does serve to bring us into a world we are little familiar with, but for some reason it didn’t quite gel for me with the rest of the film.
Another thing that bothered me was the portrayal of Hoffman. While obviously not an idiot, he was a stereotypical, easy to hate government official: Arrogant, fat, sloppy and with a Southern accent to make him even a tinge redneckish. He just cared about what was happening at the moment, and not willing to sacrifice an easy smaller win now for a much bigger payoff later.
On the other hand Salaam was handsome, self-assured, patient and honorable. I suppose at least they painted Ferris as an honorable American trying to get the job done despite all the pushback and double crosses coming from Hoffman.
Those nits however are not enough to detract from the excellence of the overall movie. I always find movie violence harder to take when it is in a more realistic setting (as opposed to some elaborate and unrealistic torture scene from the Saw series for example), so you might want to keep that in mind.
Body of Lies didn’t do well on its opening weekend, having been beaten by the horror flick Quarantine and believe it or not, Beverly Hills Chihuahua on its second weekend. So yet again another movie that takes a quasi-realistic look at the war on terror does not do well at the box office.
With things going the way they are with election politics and the financial crisis, I guess as usual people want to go to the movies to escape the “real world” and not to watch something that reminds them of what they see every day on CNN.
But if you’re looking for a great drama with its share of nail biting scenes, you’re OK with a couple of pretty brutal scenes and want to see an excellent performance by Leonardo DiCaprio, Body of Lies is definitely worth checking out.