Sunday, December 14, 2008

Body Of Lies

Year: 2008
Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe, Mark Strong, Golshifteh Farahani

Hollywood somehow loves reality. They love taking a piece of it and making a film out of it, and now the trend is talking about terrorism. 9/11 really changed moviemaking ideas, as now after we've seen Rendition, The Siege and The Kingdom, we have yet another tale about the war on terror.

Body Of Lies focuses on the CIA's efforts to nab a terrorist in the Middle East named Al-Saleem. Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio) is the man on the ground in Iraq, working hand in hand with his handler, Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe) to gather information on Al-Saleem. Ferris grows more disillusioned with his job day by day, especially after his local partner gets killed in a mission to find a lead to Saleem. Hoffman however will have none of that and pushes Ferris to proceed. The two men are constantly at each other's throats because Hoffman seemingly operates on instinct without informing Ferris, and his actions directly jeopardises the mission and Ferris' life.

Ferris gets a lead that Saleem is in Jordan, so he heads there and teams up with the head of Jordanian intelligence, Hani (Mark Strong). Ferris and Hani strike a good friendship, but Hoffman doesn't trust Hani, and continuosly acts on his own accord which puts Ferris in a tough spot and threatens Hani's trust in him. Ferris then resorts to low yet effective tactics to lure Saleem out into the open. There's also a subplot where Ferris befriends a local nurse, Aisha (Golshifteh Farahani) and her life becomes a bargain when Saleem takes the bait and comes after Ferris.

I've lost count, but this has to be at least the fourth time Ridley Scott has teamed up with Russell Crowe, and I gotta say I can't blame him. Crowe is a fine actor, and when teamed with DiCaprio, makes it even better. The two actors have not been paired together since The Quick & The Dead (which by the way was so bad I never finished watching it), so it's been a long time. To their credit, DiCaprio and Crowe do well in their respective roles, the former as the CIA agent who grows sick of his duty as time passes, and seeks a normal life with Aisha, and the latter as the headstrong yet cold man who believes himself as a patriot and the things that he does are all for the greater good, no matter how many lives are lost in the process. Watch how Crowe, who put on weight for the role, goes about his daily business such as watching his kids' soccer game and taking care of his family and at the same time giving orders via cellphone to DiCaprio.

Strong and Farahani also bring memorable performances, him as the smart and sleek head spy who may or may not be on the right side, and her as the romantic interest to Ferris. The setting of the film, location and violence portrayed also bring enough realism, as any Ridley Scott film would need.

However the film weighs its success too much on its leads. Without a straightforward plot, and the lack of focus on the consequences of deception (particularly the negative aspects) in the war on terrorism makes the film seem rather cold and unflinching. Maybe that's what Scott wanted, but the somewhat simplistic ending is in contrast to that. The pace is also rather slow at times, but thankfully DiCaprio and Crowe make it almost worthwhile.

A valiant effort though, in telling the story about the battle against terrorism. (3.5/5)

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