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Body of Lies - Review

Body of Lies

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

SIR RIDLEY Scott is no stranger to Middle East affairs having already examined the issue from a combat perspective, in Black Hawk Down and from a historical perspective in Kingdom of Heaven.

His latest, Body of Lies, is based on the novel by Washington Post journalist David Ignatius and is a complex, if occasionally naive, look at spying and what it takes to bring down a terrorist cell.

Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a CIA operative based in Iraq who is sent to Jordan to find the terrorist leader responsible for a devastating bombing campaign across Europe.

Having only narrowly cheated death on his last assignment, however, Ferris is reluctant to trust anyone – whether it’s his self-serving CIA superior, Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe) back in Washington, or tenuous new ally Hani (Mark Strong) in Jordan.

Matters become complicated still further when Ferris embarks upon a relationship with a local nurse (Golshifteh Farahani), who teaches him to question the ethics and morality of the job he is being asked to do.

There’s certainly plenty to chew on in William (The Departed) Monahan’s twisting screenplay, which whisks viewers off on a global conspiracy and frequently places them in the thick of the action once it breaks out.

The intensity and pace of Body of Lies is arguably its biggest asset, helped immeasurably by Scott’s keen eye for detail, his sumptuous direction and his ability to blow shit up and still make it look beautiful.

His actors, too, rise to the challenges posed by the moral complexity of the script – with Strong emerging as the real surprise and wonderfully manevolent as the sinister Hani.

But DiCaprio is good value as Ferris, tapping into the frustrations, fears and insecurities of his character, while Scott regular Crowe (this is their fourth collaboration) brings a no-nonsense coldness to Hoffman that makes him every bit as dangerous/treacherous as the people Ferris must deal with on the ground.

Where Body of Lies comes slightly unstuck is in its overly gung-ho approach. While certainly not as impressionistic or jingoistic as The Kingdom, it does set up some unlikely “save-the-day” scenarios that appear unlikely when set against the reality of the war on terror.

The decision to include a romance for DiCaprio’s Ferris also feels awkward and unnecessarily drags out proceedings.

That said, Body Of Lies is by no means as bad as some reviews have suggested and deserves to fare much better at the UK box office than it did in the States (where it was beaten by a chihauha).

It is, for the most part, an intelligent, frequently tense and typically well directed and performed movie that combines plenty of food for thought with the expected bang of a blockbuster of this sort.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 2hrs 8mins
UK Release Date: November 21, 2008

  1. This is a great thriller. Why have critics been so harsh in general? Ridley Scott is a fine director and he has yet again assembled a top notch cast to deliver a supremely competent and inteligent contemporary thriller. Go see it

    Jake    Nov 22    #