Body of Lies uncovers the webs of deceit that constitute Middle Eastern policy on the ground. Leonardo DiCaprio is Roger Ferris, a US intelligence expert on the trail of a terrorist cell in Jordan. But with CIA veteran Ed Hoffman (Scott regular, Russell Crowe) as Ferris’ link to the outside world, it’s hard to know who to trust. And will Jordanian intelligence take kindly to American action on its soil?
Ridley Scott is no stranger to epic movie making (Gladiator, American Gangster), and this is his second foray into Middle Eastern movie-themes following the under-rated Kingdom of Heaven. Body of Lies is a taut, tense piece of work featuring Scott’s superior cinematography.
Based on the novel by David Ignatius – current Washington Post journalist and former Middle Eastern specialist for the Wall Street Journal – it looks and sounds real enough. Labyrinthine plotting and evocative locations add to the sense of sweaty realism.
Peter Berg’s The Kingdom was a Middle Eastern action film with a nod to politics. Syriana was a political drama with nods to sleep. But Body of Lies treads a careful line between authentic-sounding detail and the sound of gunshots and gunships. In short, it’s a solidly entertaining, serious-minded film.
Russell Crowe is back to his Insider-like bagginess, putting on the paunch as a strategist seemingly without moral compass. DiCaprio is akin to his character in Blood Diamond and close to his undercover cop in The Departed. It takes him nowhere new. Mark Strong is therefore free to walk away with the acting honours as the head of Jordanian intelligence, a complex character with a civilized demeanour hiding a serpentine sense of menace.
Body of Lies is an improvement on Ridley Scott’s stodgy American Gangster and marks a sheeny-sharp return to form. And it’s a bracing antidote to the clutch of post-Iraq, hand-wringing movies like Lions for Lambs, Rendition and Charley Wilson’s War. As intelligent as these, it’s not as preachy.
Ridley Scott’s a seriously good film maker. And while Body of Lies is not his best, it’s still a rewarding movie and the best of its post-Iraq kind.