Body of Lies

Movie title: Body of Lies (2008)
Grade: C+ (2 ½ stars)
Rated: R
Summation: Tensions build between the CIA and Jordanian Intelligence as agent Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio) seeks to build up trust in efforts to stop suicide bombings.
Spoilers ahead: No


Body of Lies, starring Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio, deals with growing tensions between the CIA and Jordanian intelligence in their efforts to work together to root out terrorist cells.

Russell Crowe, who gained 50 pounds to play his role as Ed Hoffman, is a good old-fashioned American family man and boss of Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio). Hoffman is a beaurucrat, a “nobody’s innocent,” “it’s our ass or theirs” American official. Heartless may be too strong a word, but you get the idea.

The complexity of DiCaprio’s character is what makes this a better film than it otherwise would have been. Roger Ferris is an agent under Hoffman, a smart, young, broadminded American who speaks fluent Arabic, and has a liking for Middle Eastern women. He follows orders, but he aims to get things done on his own. He’s confident enough that he wants to get in good with the Chief of Jordanian Intelligence, Hani Salaam (Mark Strong) to make the task of rooting out suicide bombers easier. But Ferris soon finds that he’s on a tight leash. His boss isn’t making things easy. Hence, there is no way to build a relationship of trust.

It is American treachery that chiefly thwarts their efforts to get help. For that reason, Ferris comes up with a plan to flush out the big kahuna bad guy, Al-Saleem (Alon Aboutbul). But the plan is not successful. Ferris soon after has a change of heart and starts to see the real problem. Things fall apart and everyone is to blame. No one is honest.

Everyone is to blame; that is the theme of the movie—a body of lies is what you have when no one on any side will cooperate. No one is good. Everyone is evil. The most powerful and boastfully benevolent nation in the world lies for its own purposes. The sand-dwelling “towelhead” governments America hates lie to protect their barbaric kinsman who subscribe to violent ancient customs and radical philosophies. We lie; they lie; everyone lies. Our worst enemies are capable of good, as are we, but none of us are blameless.

This movie is only one step removed from saying out loud: “Can’t we all just get along?” Short of trying to say that, what could it be saying? Nobody’s perfect? Duh, we know that!

But of course, no nation is moral. No nation is “good” or “bad.” Governments exist for utilitarian purposes. They meet needs. They are the vessels by which lives in a complex society are made possible. Governments stand for the order of the people that make them up. They act in the best interests of their particular nation. The film has a very slight moralizing to it that I find bothersome.

The acting of DiCaprio was well focused, even with that eternally fourteen-year-old-looking appearance. Both DiCaprio and Crowe made the film, but the finest performance came from Crowe. At first, I didn’t even recognize him as himself. His manifestly southern draw, his typical white man “just following orders” mentality was arguably the best performance to be found. The plot, while decent, was somewhat slow and, to me, uneventful.

The difficulty of finding the terrorists, the ease with which lives were considered expendable on all sides, the distrust, the cover-ups, murder, torture, not to mention a westernized Ferris’ awkward pursuit of a relationship with a traditional Muslim woman, make this a fairly well nuanced film.

Here, everyone is guilty of something and everyone has a lot to learn. As far as action and interest production are concerned, the movie has a lot to learn. It’s just not that interesting. I’m giving it a C+ and it deserves no better.



Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio “Roger Ferris,” Russell Crowe “Ed Hoffman,” Mark Strong “Hani,” Golshifteh Farahani “Aisha,” Oscar Isaac “Bassam,” Ali Suliman “Omar Sadiki,” Al-Saleem “Alon Aboutboul,” Vince Colosimo “Skip”
Genre: Action/Thriller/Drama