Body of Lies Review

Published 7 years ago by

Short version: Body of Lies delivers excellent performances along with realistic action,  suspense and drama.

body of lies review Body of Lies Review
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.

Our Rating:

4.5 out of 5

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  1. I will see this based on your reccomendation Vic.
    I get no feeling or positive vibe from the ads or the behind the scenes special I saw .
    The special really makes Crowes character look like a scumbag .
    why do most of the top men in american inteeligence agencies have to be portrayed as corrupt and stupid ?
    I really miss Jim Phelps.
    The Peter Graves version not Jon Voight.

  2. Yeah, I have to say that thought bothered me throughout the film. But it very well may not be too far from the truth.

    Here’s a recommendation: Watch “Charlie Wilson’s War” on DVD. Finally saw it this evening and thought it was excellent. I was expecting some negative portrayal of the main character and came away very suprised.


  3. Good Review Vic – I’m glad it got high.

    I saw this last night not expecting much from other reviews around the web and the trailers.

    It seems the trailers play trickery in terms of the actual plots and my friends and I really friggin enjoyed this. Oh, and it came with some cool trailers too.

  4. I just saw this movie tonight and thought it was great. I do agree they went a little over the top with Russell Crowe’s character – but that’s easy to look over because he is so good and the movie as a whole is great too. I really enjoyed it… though the torture scenes were pretty tough to sit through with how realistic the movie was

  5. I was listening to a radio show yesterday that mentioned Charlie Wilsons War as one of the top ten movies about the CIA.
    Ranked pretty high too, 3 r 4 I think.

  6. Hey their Vic. Good job on the review, but I think you missed a bit about Ferris character. The beard was not placed on dicaprio to make him appear older, its becasue he is a secret agent in the Middle East trying to fit in with Islamic men. Who if you had noticed, all had beards? Just wanted to point out that observation for you.

  7. The problem with these films in my opinion isn’t the realistic approach its the idealism behind them. No matter what idea it’s putting out there it’s gonna have a large group of people who will disagree. I think the film looks good I love Russel and ever since The Departed I like Leo. I’ll watch it, but I can tell from trailers and reviews I’m gonna be turned off by it’s thoughts and messages. All these politically driven films take the same path. None of them ever try to show things from the other point of view. I get it America and or it’s government are evil. I disagree, and sort of tired of it being pounded in my head.

  8. @Shawnna

    I realize that, but my point is that they did place him in a role that required facial hair and I think it’s partially to make him look older.


  9. @Daniel

    I agree completely, although I put this film on a different level from the sorts of films you’re talking about (Redacted, In the Valley of Elah, etc.).


  10. Yea it looks to be better than those films, but seems to send a very similar message.

  11. Yeah, I did mention that above, but maybe I’m more sensitive to it. It was more of a “get results now, damn the consequences” sort of thing, but yeah, it was there.

    You should rent it when it comes out.


  12. Lol na I’ll go see it in theaters still looks like a good movie.

  13. The movie wasn’t bad at all. But one problem that I see is how people take a purely fictional movie, and because it uses names of real events such as the Iraq War, they for some odd reason associate it with real life.
    This quote, “So yet again another movie that takes a quasi-realistic look at the war on terror does not do well at the box office,” pretty much sums up one of the problems with these movies nowadays. Go in expecting a purely alternate world that borrows from real names and events but takes no real approach at accuracy, and the movie is highly enjoyable. But there is very little similarity between events or depictions in this movie and anything close to real life. It was a thoroughly enjoyable movie depicting characters that exist only in conspiracy theories, and should be enjoyed for the entirely fictional but trying to appear realistic so you can feel emotion towards it movie that it is.

  14. I was pleasantly surprised that Leonardo did a good job with this movie. I enjoyed his performance in Blood Diamond, but his acting in Titanic was awful. I had been hoping his acting in Blood Diamond wasn’t just a fluke, and I was pleasantly surprised with this movie. I find it funny that the writer chose Al Saleem as the name of the terrorist target, the most known Al Saleem is an airstrip in Kuwait that civilians oftentimes pass through on their way into Iraq. If you know much about Iraq geography or policy, you’ll find such examples throughout the movie, making it an interesting viewing for those who have first hand knowledge of the areas depicted.

  15. Regardless of what you say, people are going to interpret it as I’ve described, and when setting out to make a movie like this everyone involved should realize that.


  16. I am adding the F to my name now. There are two of us running around.

  17. Thanks vic, based on this review im going to see it now i wasnt planning on it but it sounds like an intresting movie.

  18. The beard on DiCapreo is not too make him look older. Beards in most middle east countries are a sign of maturity. Men who don’t have them are seen as foreign. Thus since Leonardo is playing a CIA operative in the area, it is his job to become like those around him to not attract attention. For the same reason, U.S. special forces operators around the world are encouraged to grow a beard before deployment.

  19. “Beards in most middle east countries are a sign of maturity”

    So umm the beard isn’t to make him look older? I thought looking more mature was sort of related to looking older.

  20. @Steven

    I realize that. My point is that the last two films he’s appeared in conveniently involved him having facial hair. :-)


  21. A thoroughly enjoyable film. Like in “Syriana” it portrays quite a credible view of GWOT and Middle-East.
    The contest between Techint and Humint is engrossing. Those giant plasma screens filling in real-time full-motion video via Predator UAVs are very real.
    Leonardo DiCaprio puts a human face to this remote war, a warrior uncorrupted by power.
    A sequel on the fate of Ferris would be most engrossing.