Body of Lies
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe, Mark Strong, Golshifteh Farahani
Time: 2 hrs 10 mins
Plot: Roger Ferris (DiCaprio) and Ed Hoffman (Crowe) work to outsmart and defuse an effective terrorist cell.
Who’s It For? DiCaprio and Crowe fans, and anyone else who likes fast-paced espionage films.
Expectations: With the alchemical combination of DiCaprio, Crowe and director Ridley Scott, the film has to be rewarding on multiple levels. Scott would have to put a lot of effort into failing.
Leonardo DiCaprio as Roger Ferris: DiCaprio is a fine actor, and he has his strong moments in Body of Lies. At the same time, DiCaprio isn’t always believable as an in-the-trenches Middle East operative. His attempts at an accent are generic at best and distracting at worst, and sometimes he can come off as a little on the squeaky side. Still, he spanked that torture scene—no one does getting their fingers lopped off with DiCaprio’s pizzazz.
Russell Crowe as Ed Hoffman: Crowe is phenomenal as the short-sighted, ego-maniacal Hoffman. He doesn’t act, he just is, which makes you wonder if he’s really just computer generated. How can anyone be that good and still maintain their own separate, human identity? Not possible—the dude’s the Deep Blue of thespians.
Mark Strong as Hani: Strong is fascinating as the Chief of the General Intelligence Department of Jordan. He is smooth and dapper with a disturbed twinkle in his expressive eyes and a looming, Count Dracula-esque, presence. Hani serves as both a guardian angel and a bringer of death, depending on his whims and whether or not you cross him.
Talking: The movie opens with Crowe dictating notes for a book on the Middle East, and it sets the tone for sharp, concise, interactions between bright and educated characters. Hani’s (Strong) dialogue is especially fun, because everything he says to Ferris ends with a creepy, “My dear.” There is a fantastic exchange between Hoffman and Ferris where Hoffman warns Ferris not to turn his back on him, because then he’s turning his back on America. Ferris replies, “Be careful callin’ yourself America, Ed.”
Sights & Sounds: Visually, the movie is very effective. There are some extremely arresting aerial shots, which give the watcher an idea of the massive scope of desolation. The overall colors are washed out and toned down and act as an excellent complement to the locations, both foreign and domestic.
Best Scene: Ferris and his partner are blown up in their car and Ferris survives, but his partner is obliterated. Ferris is recuperating at an army base, when he finds a bone fragment from his partner buried in his skin. Ferris painstakingly picks out the bone and keeps it in a matchbox to remember his friend.
Ending: If Body of Lies was more bubble gum and less substance, the audience would be rooting for Crowe’s karmic comeuppance, but the movie doesn’t insult our intelligence. Justice for one individual in a whole sea of messy, violent corruption is a pat on the back and a candy cane—it means nothing. Crowe devours and destroys like a tornado chewing its way through a metropolis, and at the end, everyone can just assess the catastrophe and thank God they are still in one piece (those who still are in one piece).
Questions: So, the cherubic-faced DiCaprio is our super-secret operative on the mean streets of the Middle East? The Jordanians see this guy with dark hair and dark contacts and think, “Sure, he’s one of us. Why pay closer attention?” And because DiCaprio blends like a hippie at an NRA convention, he can somehow manage to have highly classified conversations on his cell phone in a crowd, while glancing around himself nervously? And no one notices? “Hi, it’s me. The American operative speaking in English. I’m about to give you a litany of extremely sensitive information, but I’ll lower my voice. Can’t be too careful.”
Rewatchability: The movie is engaging with an exciting plot and skillful actors. Most people would watch it a second or third time just to catch all the artful subtlety they missed the first time around.
Ferris and Hoffman are trying to fix an incredibly complex problem from two different perspectives, and almost two different planets. Scott does an excellent job at juxtaposing Ferris’ ongoing life of violence, obscurity, lies, and deprivation with Hoffman’s comfortable, upper middle-classed armchair warrior. I can’t speak definitively for the factuality of the content (Scott usually does his homework thoroughly), and it makes me a little uneasy that the Middle Eastern terrorist is the bad guy du jour (it used to be the Russians who were trying to barge in and abscond with our freedom). That being said, the movie is an incredible experience in its own right, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who can stomach the violence.
Final Score: 8/10