Sunday, October 12, 2008

Body of Lies

Even now I cannot explain the title – Body of Lies. Maybe it refers to the nature of espionage and the web of lies inherent to it. But by the film’s end, lies were the last thing on my mind. I got more ideas mideast politics and social mores, along with America’s lack of understanding. While everybody lies in the film ironically it was not presented in a deceitful sense.

Leonardo DiCaprio plays Roger Ferris a field agent of the CIA who does understand or at least tries to. He speaks Arab, even wears his beard like an Arab. Like many agents in the field he values his contacts and is sensitive of their feelings. With due consideration to himself and to the contacts he develops he even has this code of shoot before capture to avoid torture. It is brutal but that is actually his act of sensitivity to the job.

Along with DiCaprio is Russell Crowe as Ed Hoffman, Ferris’ immediate boss at Langley. He is the man behind the desk, the antihero if you will, and he can be someone you love to hate. Hoffman is very much the interfering boss. He is distant and insensitive to the methodology that has made Ferris his most effective agent so much in fact he can be more a trouble than a help.

The story of Body of Lies is a game of cat-and-mouse which in this case the mouse’s location is unknown all the while it is exploding bombs in Europe. The story has a nice pace to it perhaps with due credit to director Ridley Scott.

Surprisingly for an American made film about searching for Arab terrorist the story is leaning more towards the Arab point of view or at least it tries to give it a 50/50 shot. There are many shots in the Middle East some even depressed areas perhaps in an attempt to show that the trouble of the post 9-11 world not all about religious fanaticism.

What really made this film to be in way pro Arab is its lead character Roger Ferris. Often during the course of the story he advocates in favor of his Arab friends and counterparts one of which is Hani, (Mark Strong) the Jordanian Chief of Intelligence. Ferris remains a dedicated CIA agent mind you but unlike the distant and pot bellied Ed Hoffman, he is of the belief that at the end of the day the war against terror or at least the intelligence business comes down to people understanding each other.

Who cares about the threat of death, social restrictions, and other such difficulties when you are friends? Hani presence tries to drive home that fact every time to an America overly dependent on its status as superpower. A friend is very much possible even in this war against terrorism if it is only nurtured.

Body of Lies, unfortunately, in spite of having all the elements of a great political thriller lacks the emotional kick to it. While it tried to make points about the Arabs and the need for true friendships it came off as nearly neutral. Perhaps if blame can be truly pointed out I’d say it was DiCaprio. I so much hate his voice. Russell on the other hand was perfect.

Had the DiCaprio’s character been stronger it would have contrasted greatly to Russell Crowe’s performance of a distant and detached CIA boss. There was not enough disillusionment in Roger Ferris (DiCaprio) to match up with the insensitive and epitome of American arrogance in Ed Hoffman (Crowe). This is where the conflict was greatest and could have had the best impact if only it was attended to.

But don’t fret. If you’re really into spy flicks then the concept of the movie should thrill you. It has all the action from the war in the Middle East and some thrill in catching a mysterious bomber. Body of Lies is good enough to watch. Too bad this movie just wasn’t great.