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Body of Lies movie poster

Body of Lies

Genre: Action, Drama, Thriller
Rated: R
Directed by:
Ridley Scott
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe, Mark Strong, Golshifteh Farahani, Carice van Houten, Ali Suliman, Alon Abutbul
Released by: Warner Bros. Pictures

In Short: Big-star wattage and a realistic feel help make this a compelling tale of Middle Eastern espionage.
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Prevarication at Every Turn
A Thrilla in the Desert

Making films that resonate with contemporary issues seems to be Leonardo DiCaprio's current passion. Body of Lies follows Blood Diamond in his oeuvre, as he moves from his Oscar-nominated role playing a South African rouge diamond smuggler into that of a Middle East CIA agent, speaking fluent Arabic and having yet another accent. The three-time Oscar nominee is joined in this Ridley Scott film (who is also a three-time nominee) by Oscar-winner Russell Crowe, who is back to his old tricks here (think The Insider), packing on the pounds and doing a dead-on imitation of a fat and happy American.

Crowe plays Ed Hoffman, a CIA agent at headquarters in Langley, Virginia who controls the actions of Roger Ferris (DiCaprio) as he helps to manipulate key events in Iraq and Jordan. If successfully executed, it will put important Al-Queda terrorists out of business. However, the two are at the mercy of Jordanian security head Hani (Mark Strong, in an extremely compelling performance), having to play ball with him in order to operate successfully in his country. And with that uneasy alliance, the lies referenced in the film's titled begin to flow.

Body of Lies takes viewers deep into the Arab world as Ferris follows his destiny and finds romance where it does not belong, while simultaneously manipulating the press, his CIA higher-ups and Hani, a powerful man who insists on truth at all costs. But it seems that when U.S. operatives are working in the Middle East, lies are their stock in trade, even when they wholeheartedly promise to tell the truth.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Golshifteh Farahani in Body of Lies Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio in Body of Lies

As the film unfolds, all those lies begin to collapse in upon themselves, with the result being betrayal, and one of the more brutal torture scenes in recent memory. Think Casino Royale, then go further in your mind and you'll be in the right ballpark. It's hard to watch, but definitely brings home the reality of what is going on between Arabs and Americans who are at odds in the Middle East, and it isn't something many of us want to contemplate.

In fact, all of Body of Lies feels dark and dirty, which is clearly Ridley Scott's intent. If the plot of this movie is truly the way the game is being played by real American operatives fighting terrorism in Iraq and beyond, then as the film posits, there is little hope for peace there, or anywhere else. It isn't a pretty picture, but is one worth seeing and thinking about after the credits roll.

Reviewed by Jenny Peters

PKR100308 (Updated: 10/10/08 KR)

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