This twisty spy meller from Ridley Scott (American Gangster) is top-lined by Leonardo DiCaprio (Blood Diamond) and a burly Russell Crowe, in his fourth outing with Scott.
Body of Lies has an intriguing premise for a well-paced insider account of the CIA that makes it seem like an updating of Tony Scott's Spy Game.
Scott teams with writer William Monahan again (last in Kingdom of Heaven) for precision and something timely about the importance of information or person-to-person contact in today's post 9/11 world.
DiCaprio fills his brash agent Roger Ferris with love for adventure working out of the Middle East; Crowe is the crafty veteran Ed Hoffman in regular conversation with Ferris to implement strategies of highest national interest. Our democracy is quite vulnerable to something like a fictitious organization as potent as the real group headed by the enigmatic Al-Saleem (Alon Aboutboul).
The perception of loyalty shifts often in Body of Lies as Monahan derives much edge and grit from novelist/veteran journalist, now Washington Post columnist and editor David Ignatius. Eventually, with chases, explosions, and shoot-outs at regular intervals, the deadly ruses, mostly planned by Hoffman, has the ferreting Ferris dealing with a moral crisis.
The picture may be more of a procedural than an expose of hot-button issues as it globetrots with much efficiency far less complex than the more intriguing Syriana. The handling of information instead of the magnitude of force and technology in the rough-and-tumble sides of the intelligence circles helps propel this even-handed look. Unfortunately, it succumbs to what is necessary in an action film these days and counters what a cell-phone conversation had prevailing for it. Still, some will like the pragmatic, subtle dissemination going for the espionage which has changed from the Cold War era.
As in the aforementioned Kingdom of Heaven and his bravura Black Hawk Down, Scott likes to dissect the turbulence between the Arabs and the West on the sociopolitical front. DiCaprio offers much determination as one (fluent in Arabic) who must fight between much cloak and daggers, reminiscient of some of his gritty work in The Departed. Golshifteh Farahani is lively as a caring nurse and Mark Strong is quite cultivated as Hani Salaam, a top Jordan spy who begins to figure out what Ferris and Hoffman are up to. And, Simon McBurney is good as the computer geek out to make Ali Suliman's Omar Sadiki part of the plan against Al-Saleem.
Russell Crowe literally phones in his performance, though only having less than a handleful of scenes together with DiCaprio doesn't bring much weight to his part as his looks suggest. The phone conversations become more tedious than adept to a thriller which hinges on vulnerability and betrayal.
Body of Lies gets into comprehending "the enemy" without too much detachment with numerous title cards. Yet, it never unfolds with an authenticity as it relies on individuality while promoting a visceral, sometimes exciting visual quality with Morocco substituting mostly for its variety of locations.