BODY OF LIES
Top CIA field operative, Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio), relies for his safety and information on his primary insider, CIA veteran Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe). Strategizing from a laptop back in suburban USA, Hoffman is on the trail of an emerging terrorist leader, Al Saleem (Alon Aboutboul) suspected to be operating out of Jordan, who has orchestrated a campaign of bombings while eluding the most sophisticated intelligence network in the world. To lure the terrorist out into the open, Hoffman sends Ferris to Amman where he has to persuade Jordan's intelligence chief, Hani (Mark Strong) to co-operate - and to try and stop Hoffman interfering. Ferris cooks up a clever scheme to dupe Al Saleem - but his interest in local nurse Aisha (Golshifteh Farahani) exposes him to enormous risk.
Review by Louise Keller:
Lies and consequences form the heart of this bold, hard-hitting drama in which people are used as commodities, while Big Brother keeps a watchful eye. The wide-reaching tumultuous War on Terror is the backdrop for this complex screenplay, skillfully adapted from David Ignatius' novel by William Monahan (The Departed). The subject matter is tough and we are taken right into the midst of the action - sometimes too close for comfort. Ridley Scott is a master at orchestrating such a project and there are no compromises when it comes to his two extraordinary leading men.
DiCaprio's Roger Ferris and Russell Crowe's Ed Hoffman may be on the same team, but they are diametrically opposed in every way. Ferris is hands-on, conscientious and true to his word, while Hoffman is a manipulator with no conscience or qualms about misrepresenting the truth. Physically they are equally different. Ferris is lean, fit and takes trouble with his appearance while Hoffman is overweight, slovenly and wears an oversized suit that looks as though he has slept in it - Crowe put on 23 kgs for the role. Hoffman is the puppeteer who pulls Ferris' strings and through most of the film, their conversations are from opposite sides of the globe and in very different circumstances. While Ferris is a human shield, dodging bullets, knives and killer dogs, Hoffman is taking his son to the bathroom, watching his ballgame or putting the shopping in the car. The contrast of the two worlds is striking and both DiCaprio and Crowe inhabit their characters totally.
The story is not a pretty one as we leap frog countries and continents and watch the stakes get higher and higher. The twist begins when Ferris comes up with an ingenious plan to locate the terrorists, which involves making the innocent look guilty, when he finds himself in deeper and murkier waters than he could ever imagine. There's a charming romance between DiCaprio and Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani, who plays Aisha, the nurse with whom he has to learn how to have a conversation before the conversation can take place, and Mark Strong is outstanding as Hani, the immaculately dressed Head of Jordanian Intelligence, who runs what's called The Fingernail Factory and hypocritically insists on nothing but the truth. Vince Colosimo also makes his mark. As Crowe's CIA strategist says in a rare moment of candour 'Nobody's innocent in this shit.' Dense and tense, this is a top class thriller that resonates in today's world.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Convincing and gripping, Body of Lies is at the epicentre of Ridley Scott's comfort zone as an action adventure with political overtones as well as some intimate human insights. Little wonder he chose to work with Russell Crowe again, giving Crowe another crack at an overweight character, this time as a CIA helmsman working - sometimes secretly - with field agent Roger Ferris, played with verve by Leonardo DiCaprio, who maintains an inexhaustible level of energy throughout.
The gritty, dirty reality of field operations in which Ferris risks his life on an hourly basis in the Middle East contrast dramatically with Hoffman's almost uninterrupted life in the suburbs. Earpiece in place for his hands-free mobile, Hoffman can continue to save the world while transporting or feeding the kids. The juxtaposition of his suburban life with the danger and carnage at the other end of the phone provides great dramatic texture.
Ridley Scott's choices for the supports also pays off, with a wonderful, urbane and totally credible characterisation of Jordan's intelligence chief, Hani, by English born Mark Strong and a warm, instantly likeable Aisha from newcomer Golshifteh Farahani. Alon Aboutboul makes a powerful Al Saleem and avoids caricature or stereotype, and Aussie Vince Colosimo blends in beautifully as Skip, an unreliable, troublemaking sidekick to Ferris. Likewise, the increasingly popular Ali Suliman makes Omar Sadiki a real and tragic character who is used as a pawn by Ferris.
The CIA is shown to be well equipped to conduct aerial spy missions that can zoom in on Ferris, or anyone else in the world, anywhere - and track them. (If only they could lend me some of their most basic technology to solve my ongoing email hiccups...) The story is certainly rich and rewarding, streaked through with observations about the cultures and politics that are part of the film. So there are bad guys on both sides, torture is part of every system and Ferris gets to point out to the terrorists how the Koran is subverted by extremists.
Through the attraction between Ferris and Iranian-born Aisha (Golshifteh Farahani), we also get a chance to have a meal in her apartment under the suspicious eyes and anti-American attitude of Aisha's sister Cala (Lubna Azabal - also excellent). The scenes with Aisha give us respite from the action and build up an extra layer to Ferris, who has to find a moral path in a totally amoral world. And it's made even more complicated by the brilliant but arrogant scheming of Ed Hoffman . . . And for once, the ending is not over-engineered and smacks of life's realities.
Set as it is in today's terrorist-laden world, Body of Lies is highly relevant and comes from a novel that carries the stamp of authority; its author David Ignatius, a veteran journalist who covered the CIA and Middle East affairs for 10 years for The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. It may not be a true story - but it certainly feels accurate.
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BODY OF LIES (MA)
CAST: Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe, Mark Strong, Golshifteh Farahani, Carice van Houten, Oscar Isaac, Simon McBurney, Vince Colosimo, Michael Gaston
PRODUCER: Ridley Scott, Donald De Line
DIRECTOR: Ridley Scott
SCRIPT: William Monahan (novel by David Ignatius)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Alexander Witt
EDITOR: Pietro Scalia
MUSIC: Marc Streitenfeld
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Arthur Max
RUNNING TIME: minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 9, 2008