Friday, October 10, 2008

Body of Lies

“Ferris didn’t give much thought then to the complexity that lay beyond this vision; the maze that was so perfectly constructed you didn’t think to ask whether it was perhaps inside a larger maze.”

Leonardo DiCaprio stars as CIA agent Roger Ferris who is sent to the Middle East by his superior Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe) to find and stop an emerging terrorist leader.

When the film focuses on the relationships between Hoffman, Ferris and the head of the Jordanian Intelligence (Mark Strong) it works quite well. Trust and partnerships are very fragile things in the region where anyone could just as easily be your enemy or ally.

Ferris must deal with the ego of his boss while trying to create trust with the officials in whose country he is operating. It doesn’t help that Hoffman’s idea of diplomacy is deception and the end of the knife. Hoffman’s only concerns are completing the mission and keeping American interests prioritized over of all others.

Although DiCaprio gets the bigger role it’s Crowe who steals the film. As Hoffman he portrays an intelligence and American arrogance which is infuriating as he turns out to be right most of the time. Strong also puts in another nice supporting performance here.

I also like Ferris’ plan for catching the terrorist leader, though it, like much of the film, feels a little too much like a lesser version of Traitor (read that review), without the character study to balance the action and terrorism plot.

The film makes a few missteps. For some reason a love story is hamfistedly pushed into the tale, simply to allow for unfortunate events in the plot to be played out later. And although I like how the audience is thrown into the story without much explanation, the film also has a bit of a pacing problem as it rushes important ideas and set-ups to larger themes at times and slows to a crawl at others.

Body of Lies may not be all that you hope for with the talent involved. It’s not as good as Traitor, but it is an engaging film with a strong performance by Crowe which alone is worth the price of admission.

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