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Body of Lies Movie Review

Body of Lies: Tense in Some Parts, Tedious in Others

Body of Lies has slipped on and off my radar over the past couple of months. It's hard to ignore because it's Ridley Scott working with Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe, and yet the previews haven't looked all that original. But I went anyway, hoping to be entertained and thinking that if it turned out to be thought-provoking as well, all the better.

The thing is, this movie doesn't do more than it has to in terms of both entertainment and thought-provocation. There's a tedious quality to it that, despite some good action scenes and funny lines, is hard to shake. That said, I appreciate that Scott aims to give us a slightly different, more psychological view of life on the ground for American operatives in the Middle East. But to see why I'm a bit torn about this movie,


DiCaprio (sporting some icky facial hair and a strange accent) plays Roger Ferris, a CIA agent operating in the Middle East on the hunt for an elusive Bin Laden-type mastermind named Al-Saleem. He's only ever a cell phone call away from his boss, Ed Hoffman (Crowe), who runs the show from the comfort of his suburban home in the Washington DC area and some kind of mission control room where he can view Ferris's whereabouts via satellite. The whole thing has a Big Brother feel to it while demonstrating how easy it is for people (like the calculating Hoffman) to detach from the messy moral issues that take place on the ground.

Both characters come to embody the different aspects of a war of this nature: Crowe's paunchy Hoffman pragmatically give orders through a lazy Southern accent while stuffing his face with food. Meanwhile, DiCaprio's Ferris blends into the Arab world and earns their trust, only to pick shrapnel out of his skin when things go awry due to the impatience of his boss. It's kind of a funny thing watching Crowe peer over his glasses in comfy armchairs while DiCaprio rolls around from one explosion to the next the whole movie. In this world, catching terrorists is a mad scramble, with agents literally rummaging through the post-bombing rubble looking for evidence and information. There's nothing particularly organized or methodical about it until they partner with the most interesting character in the movie, Hani, the head of Jordanian intelligence.

The introduction of Hani, played beautifully by the handsome Mark Strong, is where things get good as he warns the Americans not to lie to him and to let him do his job. Of course, Hoffman decides they need results more quickly and he pressures young Ferris to embark on a risky scheme behind Hani's back. Unfortunately, this all happens during the last third of the movie, and up until this plot-thickening it's all rather pointless and predictable, not to mention boring.

Though torture is used and both lead characters give monologues about winning the war on terror, the movie's focus has less to do with any kind of political statement and more to do with use and abuse of relationships as mere means to an end (in this case capturing jihadists). It fails to bring to the table in a new and entertaining way what we already know about spies: no one is to be trusted, human life is disposable, and technology only complicates matters. As a result, Body of Lies has some bright spots of action and intrigue sprinkled throughout an otherwise forgettable entry into the political thriller genre.

Photos courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Join The Conversation
boredatwork boredatwork 8 years
"NotMe" - I'm with you on this one. I saw it over the weekend and disagree with Buzz. I think it had a lot to say about how Americans view the middle east and vice versa and how it's affecting the war. My husband thought 5 minutes could have been shaved off, but I generally think that of every Ridley Scott film, though I still enjoy them.
NotMeAnymore NotMeAnymore 8 years
Sounds to me as if we saw two different films. Your review was condescending, simplistic and, frankly, rather childish with its snipes at the actors. "Body of Lies" is a decent film that looks at the human beings behind our relations in the Middle East, and how as much as we like to claim that it's our principles that define our behavior, our emotions are heavily involved as well. DiCaprio is excellent (when isn't he?), Crowe is underused which is a shame, and Mark Strong is superb as the head of Jordanian intelligence. For those who can actually look past the surface, I highly recommend this film. You won't be disappointed. Those who prefer not to have to think during a film would probably prefer lighter fare.
Renees3 Renees3 8 years
kmckay, the last half of the movie was the better part. Maybe you should sneak into a showing of just the end :-) I didn't think it was awesome, and honestly, just kind of blends in with all the other terrorist movies, but I liked Leo's character and I liked Hani. It was exciting and action packed, but I won't watch it again or anything!
kmckay kmckay 8 years
i walked out after 40 minutes.... i have never done that before in a movie but i was bored beyond belief. so not my thing
nctd nctd 8 years
i love leonardo dicaprio nevertheless! and the movie was, for me, great. i was amused by the jordanian intelligence guy. haha.
sofi sofi 8 years
well, I just got back from it an it was pretty good. Interesting premise with lies and who to trust but nothing too thought-provoking. Lots of blood and made me jump a few times. Leo was good in this. I am glad we saw it because it was pretty exciting and it wasn't necessarily trying to make any specific war statement IMO. But Leo's facial hair was really icky.
ilanac13 ilanac13 8 years
well - i have to say that i'm kind of happy that you're not giving it a RAVING review since i haven't been really excited about this movie. i'm not a fan of leo and i can't really give too much attention to russell - so at least i know that i'm not going to miss out on a fantastic movie here.
Linda-McP Linda-McP 8 years
Great review, Buzz. I was planning to add this to my Netflix wait list; I'll do that for sure now.
sushibananas sushibananas 8 years
Bummer! I had high hopes for this one and I really love the work of Ridley Scott, but even more so with Crowe and DiCaprio attached. Too bad it fell flat! I think I'll save it for a dvd rental. Thanks, Buzz!
nancita nancita 8 years
Great review. You really manage to pull out what I'm guessing are the most interesting points. :)
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