Body of Lies

Crowe Overweight; Unhealthy

Starring: Russell Crowe, Leonardo DiCaprio

By Robert Patrick

Ridley Scott’s Body of Lies begins with an explosion that eradicates a building complex – leaving the screen purged by a flash of light. It’s certainly not an innocuous opening scene for the director’s esoteric political thriller, but it does set a rather evident tone to the rest of the two hour film.

Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a fatigued, lowly operative in the chain of command for the CIA. Possessing only a government issued handgun and a faded, beat up baseball cap, Ferris continually drags his weary feet through the sand of Jordan, doing what he does best: grunt work for covert operations in the area. Ferris’ only backup is an earpiece connected to a portly, high ranking officer in Washington, named Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe). The two embittered allies are a revisionist odd couple: While Ferris ducks shrapnel, Hoffman plays duck-duck-goose with his kids. When Ferris has his cover blown in an enemy infested market place, Hoffman is simply shopping at one. They are thousands of miles apart, connected only by a disembodied stitch of technology. And because of it, Ferris resents being servile to his egotistical superior.

As the movie progresses, terrorist attacks rock unsuspecting regions in Europe. Hoffman, with vague leads on how to capture the Al Qaeda commander, convinces the head of Jordanian intelligence to assist him with surveillance in the country in exchange for mutual support. The allegiance, already brittle because of Hoffman’s penchant for shirking his side of the deal, is one of deceit and feigned trust. Luckily for Ferris, every time Hoffman deceives the Jordanian government, he is the one having to dive for cover.

Everyone, even the patriotic Ferris character, has a forked tongue in Scott’s imputable commentary on the Middle East. Hoffman, despite his age and positional rank, is the most callow of the bunch; he orders executions while washing his child’s hands, accrues potentially dangerous information while crudely snickering, and makes frivolity out of the worst actions possible – there is nothing too taboo for him.

But how is the movie itself? Beyond the cacophonous explosions and shouting matches, there isn’t really much to talk about. The fuzzy-haired Crowe looks uncannily like the overweight, gray-headed ex-cigarette employee he played so succinctly in The Informer. The only difference this time, despite the physical similarities in character, is that Crowe’s acting is unimpressive and his direction more obtuse. DiCaprio, on the other hand, is also surprisingly ineffective as the valorous, gun wielding CIA operative. To his credit, I must admit, the screenplay doesn’t give the talented player much to work with. Using his furrowed brow to demonstrate his seething tension, DiCaprio is again at odds with his superiors – and he uses every opportunity he can to hold his cell phone at a different angle to yell at them.

Three days after I saw this picture, I was most agitated with the movie’s subplot involving the Ferris character and an Iranian nurse. I regret to say, the romantic subplot, completely uninteresting as it is, does work into the ultimate conclusion of the picture. Watching the actual correspondence unfold, however, is so out of place, it’s almost like watching DiCaprio flirt with someone off screen.

I don’t think Body of Lies is a bad film, I only think it’s a forgettable one. I suggest you watch something else and instead see this once its left theatres, once its available for rent, once its on television, once its…


Author: Rob Patrick

The program director of the Olympia Film Society, Rob is also a former San Diego Film Critics Society member. He has written for The East County Californian, The Alpine Sun, The East County Herald, The San Diego Entertainer, and the San Diego Reader. When he isn't curating a film festival, he is drinking rosé out of a plastic cup in Seattle or getting tattoos from Jenn Champion.

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