An underrated thriller that benefits from strong performances by the lead cast and an outstanding score by Marc Streitenfeld.
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe, Mark Strong
Plot: A CIA agent on the ground in Jordan hunts down a powerful terrorist leader while being caught between the unclear intentions of his American supervisors and Jordan Intelligence.
Subject Matter: Moderate – Terrorism; American Intelligence; Middle East
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream
Viewed: In Theatres
First Published: 16 Nov 2008
William Monahan, the Oscar-winning writer of The Departed, is rapidly building up his reputation as one of Hollywood’s most shrewd screenplay writers. Here he tackles the ‘situation’ (as Leonardo DiCaprio calls it in the film) in the Middle East with aplomb.
Adapting the novel by David Ignatius, Monahan brings viewers into a complicated web of deceit and untruth that comes with spy intelligence.
Oscar-winner Russell Crowe plays Ed Hoffman, a high-ranking CIA officer whose arrogance and bastardly attitude often come into question, always unnecessarily interfering with the operation plans of his ‘agent on the ground’, the diplomatic Roger Ferris, played by DiCaprio.
One thing DiCaprio is unable to shake away all these years is still his babyish face. However, in Body of Lies, he gives us a performance of assuredness and the acting confidence of a veteran, sporting a goatee and attempting the Arabic language in certain scenes.
“You Americans, you are incapable of secrecy because you are a democracy.”
While Crowe always brings zest to his roles, British actor Mark Strong is more remarkable here. He gives an authoritative display with few words, often using his serious-looking eyes to convey feelings of distrust and ambiguity.
Body of Lies has one stunning action set-piece – a chase across an arid desert involving four-wheel-drives and rescue choppers. Director Ridley Scott fuses satellite images and real-time scenes during this sequence, perfectly editing them into a thrilling mosaic of sight and sound.
Scott, whose recent film credits include ambitious pictures like Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven, and American Gangster, chooses the safe route instead for Body of Lies. As a result, it does not break new ground in terms of direction and technicality.
At a glance, Body of Lies seems like a typical Hollywood action-thriller. But the strong performances of the cast and its intriguing story, plus the experience of an acclaimed director behind the lens are what set the film apart from the other rotten eggs in the basket.