Body of Lies

Body of Lies (2008)
★★ / ★★★★

I expected a lot from this film because of three reaons: Ridley Scott’s direction, Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe teaming up, and its storyline regarding spies. Even though Scott’s movies generally do not have riveting ideas, he manages to entertain by playing with the fluidity of his characters’ morals and motivations. In this picture, it’s no different because he constantly manipulates the dynamics between the characters–mainly their loyalties–to the point where at times I wondered about the characters’ true intentions. The side effect of certain twists, however, left me confused. At times I didn’t know why a character is doing whatever he is doing for about ten to fifteen minutes. It wasn’t a good feeling; I felt like I was on the outside instead of feeling involved. I wish DiCaprio and Crowe had more screen time together. The movie actually popped during the (too few) scenes when they were facing each other, measuring each other’s abilities. I got tired of the scenes when the two of them would argue over the phone. Why do all that if they can be on the field together? As for the spy storyline, I’m glad the setting was in the Middle East not that because it’s accurate but because it’s relevant to the war in some way. This film is based on the novel by David Ignatius but I haven’t read the book so I don’t know how often this movie followed that literature. I also have to commend Mark Strong as the head of the Jordanian intelligence. I think he’s one of the most interesting actors to watch because he has his own intentions and he’s not willing to sacrifice his reputation for the sake of giving and receiving favors to and from the CIA. I also liked Golshifteh Farahani as DiCaprio’s romantic interest. Even though that romance angle did not work for me, I liked watching her because she has subtlety. This is far from a perfect film but it could’ve been leaner and meaner with a few more revisions in the script and cutting it down to about an hour and forty minutes. For the sake of entertainment and old-fashioned thrillers, this gets a slight recommendation from me.

3 replies »

  1. I believe I said about ‘The International’ a while back that it can be really hard to this kind of geopolitical thrillers well, and to me, ‘Body of Lies’ failed at it. I really didn’t care about the love interest angle, and the endless phone conversations annoyed me too. While the movie certainly an important message, however cynical, I think it didn’t deliver as a movie. Also, I agree completely that the running time should have been trimmed drastically. Great review.

  2. Thanks! Well, at least you got some sort of message. I didn’t get nothin’. I was just confused pretty much half of the time and by the last twenty minutes, I wished it would end. =\ Très disappointing.

  3. Disappointing, indeed. The cynical geopolitical logic of the War on Terror, and the unconstitutional excesses of the Bush years (no, damn right-wing nutjobs; President Obama is no Chamberlain, he’s just being polite!) should provide an interesting backdrop to this movie, but apart from posing from painful questions about the effectiveness of torture, it failed to impress.

    As a newspaper columnist (WaPo) David Ignatius is very good, but I’m not sure if this movie adaption was necessary.

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