Emanuel Levy's 'Body of Lies' Review



Body of Lies B+ Ridley Scott's exciting, ultra-fast moving geopolitical thriller, "Body of Lies," based on the novel of the same name by David Ignatius, offers an up-to-the-moment, extraordinarily precise and incisive view of the war on terrorism, as conducted by the U.S. on the ground and back home, in offices, homes, and suburban playgrounds--mostly via cel phones.

Teaming with Ridley Scott for the first time, after three consecutive films with maestro Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio is in top form as Roger Ferris, the young U.S. Intelligence agent, who's considered the brightest, boldest and best of the lot. Joining forces with Agent Ferris is CIA vet Ed Hoffman, played by Russell Crowe, Scott's regular (and favorite?) actor in his fifth film for the director, as the commander behind the scenes, the man on the other side of the cell, who's in daily (sometimes hourly) communication with Ferris.

Scott and author Ignatius, a veteran journalist who has covered the CIA and Middle Eastern affairs for 10 years for The Wall Street Journal before joining The Washington Post, where he is currently a editor and columnist, understand that the new rules of the game of terrorism is not strength of force, or subtle technology, but information, and its ultra-rapid dissemination among the right parties. Mind you, the info couldd be true or false, valid or invalid, but it needs to be packaed and sold as information!

Scribe William Monahan, who won an Oscar for Scorsese's "The Departed," succeeds in bringing the novel's gritty urgency and combative character dynamics to a multi-dimension film, in which the plot changes so fat that the characters�and viewers�are in constant need of adjusting their perceptions and expectations.

Replete of twists and turns, the plot centers on Ferris' audacious plan to lure a terrorist leader named Al-Saleem out of hiding by making it appear that a rival yet fake organization has become as scary, deadly and effectual as Al-Saleem's own group. However, as expected, Ferris' deftly constructed smoke and mirrors are cloaked in layers of simultaneous subterfuge perpetrated by his own superior, Ed Hoffman.

A ruthless strategist, Hoffman will stop at nothing to protect the highest goal, national security, even if it means sacrificing his best man. As Ferris' scheme gains seeming credibility and global momentum, conflicts with his two closest allies threaten to converge with a crisis of conscience that leaves Ferris vulnerable. Will Hoffman betray him, as he has so many others before him?

Meanwhile, if the head of Jordanian intelligence finds out that Ferris is running a secret operation to snare Al-Saleem, Ferris' life expectancy in Jordan will be measured out in minutes. Ultimately, and that's the weakest part of the narrative, since it resorts to the chrished value of inidvidualism, the survival of Ferris and the success of his mission may depend on the one man he can trust, himself.

In the murky underworld of today's high-stakes global espionage, power is measured and defined by the amount of vital information one acquires and controls, or even appears to acquire and control. In the post 9/11 era, national security is a shifty milieu, in which no one could be really trusted, not friends and not even supervisors of your own country, one in which fateful decisions need to be made within seconds.

Since the movie is concerned with issues of information, misinformation and disinformation, rather than weaponry and technology, at least one third of the yarn consists of brief phone conversations between Ferris and Hoffman, who's often seen around his pool or in his yard, playing with his children, while getting crucial info and making on the spot vital decisions that might affect the lives of Ferris and others.

In this, and other respects, "Body of Lies," which sounds more like a noir melodrama than a suspense political thriller, is novel offering a cynical yet unfamiliar perspective on how the war of terrorism is conducted, both as a matter of routine and as a highly risky, endless cat-and-mouth chase, which inevitably involves risking the lives of officers and civilians, all over the world.

And I mean all over the world: Following the format of a procedural cop-serial killer movie, "Body of Lies" is also a procedural feature, albeit of a very different kind. If my notes are valid, the globetrotting saga shifts locales over a dozen times in the course of its two-hour running time. But it's not disorienting, because every scenes is grounded and identified with a title card indicating the specific time and place The movie captures vividly the two sides or facets of the complex, ever0shifting war, on the death-prone front lines as well on

Narratively and visually, "Body of Lies" is a corrective thriller to "Syriana," in which there were too many characters and only one relatable (played by George Clooney) as well as to the preposterously-plotted "Trust," which defied logic and realism in showing how easy it was for an agent like Don Cheadle to infiltrate the ranks of a secretive organization and then betray his colleagues and peers.

In scale, "Body of Lies" belongs to Scott's grand epics, specifically "Black Hawk Down" and the Oscar-winning "Gladiator," though otherwise, it's vastly different. Like them, it's supremely crafted thriller, with thrilling visuals, courtesy of cinematographer (who also shot Scott's former film, "American Gangster"), bravura action set-pieces, chases and shoot-outs.

The duo of Ferris and Hoffman meet tête-à-tête only three of four times in the course of the narrative, which is frustrating from an acting point of view, because both DiCaprio and Crow are such gifted and captivating thespians. Cel conversations also present another problem: As crucial as this device is for this kind of film, it often gets tedious, which may be the point, even if it's no so dramatic to observe.

Unlike those movie, though "Body of Lies" is smarter, more complex spy thriller about the various levels of trust and deception that come into play in invading, let alone trying to understand a foreign country with a unfamiliar culture and politics that's perceived in one word as "the enemy."


Thanks to Alicia !