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Body Of Lies
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Reviewed on 2008-10-15
Received[2.5]  out of 4 stars
GenreAction / Drama / Thriller
Most Americans see and hear enough about Iraq and the war on terrorism from cable news networks. This espionage thriller based on a novel by former Washington Post columnist David Ignatius hits so close to current events that you feel uncomfortable watching it.

Leonardo DiCaprio plays Roger Ferris, a CIA operative on the ground in the Middle East. He is a pawn who stays one step ahead of capture, torture and execution.

His strings are pulled by his handler Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe, who reportedly gained 50 pounds for the role), who enjoys domestic tranquility in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. Their target is a bearded Osama bin Laden-like head of a terrorist cell responsible for random bombings in Manchester and Amsterdam.

Ferris forms an alliance with Jordanian chief of intelligence Hani Salaam (British thespian Mark Strong, who could pass as Andy Garciaís twin brother). Salaam warns Ferris to never lie to him. Salaam and Hoffman donít get along, because they have the same spy backgrounds where the risks associated with trusting anyone are ingrained from experience.

The movie takes a dark view of humanity where lives are dispensable in an effort to obtain crucial strategic information.

The story seems far-fetched and unbelievable with a forced romance between Ferris and a pretty Iranian nurse. The cooperation and sharing of intelligence between the United States and Jordan on a joint mission stretches credibility.

Director Ridley Scott ("American Gangster" and "Black Hawk Down") working from a script by Oscar winner William Monahan ("The Departed") takes a slow and cerebral approach to layers of seduction, deceit and betrayal. Gunplay, chases, bombings and pyrotechnic explosions break up the monotony of waiting around for something to happen.

The movie has a visual panache with an accurate depiction of the terrain. Morocco stands in for the segments taking place in Syria, Iraq and Jordan.

DiCaprio, as part of his undercover disguise, sports an unruly full beard and mustache. He has a guilty conscience for the deceptive tactics required by his job. He feels remorse for the lives put in jeopardy.

Crowe as a haughty and arrogant bureaucrat spends most of the movie talking on a cell phone with a wire stuck in his ear. Strong gives the best performance and is the most believable character.

The movie takes a cold and detached view of the main players, which makes it hard for audiences to be sympathetic. It has a more linear script than "Syriana," but covers the same subject matter as "Traitor." The movie is not preachy and stays clear of taking a political stance. There are no easy solutions to the ruthlessness, hatred and lack of morality exhibited by radical terrorist extremists whose clear objective is to spread death to all infidels.

Despite its star power, this movie does not fit the definition of escape-from-reality entertainment.

Some of the dialogue is in Arabic with easy-to-read English subtitles.

Review By:
Keith Cohen, "The Movie Guy"


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