Body of Lies (2008) Review

By Marco Chacon   X Formly Known as Twitter
3 Min Read
Body of Lies exists on a spectrum of political thrillers that extends from the complex (sometimes to the point of incomprehensible) Syriana, to the far more conventional 2001, Spy Game.  In fact, it owes a lot to the latter: there's a young CIA operative, Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his older, far more experienced and cynical controller, Ed Hoffman (played by Russell Crowe, who gained 63 pounds for the role). Seven years ago, it was Brad Pit and Robert Redford.

The target, of course, is Middle Eastern terrorism, a mastermind who is setting off explosions across Europe.  DiCaprio has to run him down while working with Jordanian intelligence.  No one should trust anyone, least of all Aisha (Golshifteh Farahani), a pretty nurse who becomes the love interest of Ferris. There are several twists and turns and a smattering of action mixed in with surprisingly a little political message.

I have heard it said that the bluntest of political movies "ask and answer a question". The next most sophisticated simply ask the question, and the most sophisticated simply present a situation and let people ask their own questions. I think with this movie, we are looking at "situation", but I couldn't come away with much by way of a question.  My observation was "these people are into some pretty dirty politics".

There aren't many heroes in Body of Lies, but there aren't too many villains either.  Sure, the terrorist is a villain -- and DiCaprio's, Ferris, often tries to do the right thing (but doesn't try too hard in several cases). Crowe's, Ed Hoffan, really never tries to do "the right thing"; but he's trying to catch a murderous terrorist...and he doesn't commit atrocities.  Jordanian Chief of Intelligence, Mark Strong, as Hani Salaam is a charismatic expert in his field -- but is he really a good guy?  He takes some awful chances with people he likes.

I believe for political thrillers that lean more towards the "political" end of the spectrum (as the Bourne movies lean towards the "thriller" end); we need more history and perspective in order to be really satisfied. Body of Lies doesn't impress the viewer with its command of spy craft.  It confirms what we suspected -- spies need to check a lot of conscience at the door. However, it doesn't surprise us with anything really new.

Ridley Scott is one of my favorite directors, and in Body of Lies he gives us action scenes with the proper (sometimes shocking) kinetics, aerial views of Morocco (which is posing as Jordan), giving   us that now-familiar Google-Earth feel, and a sense of foreign locations that had me fooled. The European scenes were all done in Washington DC! The movie doesn't hurt for his eye, but it did leave me suspecting that predator-drone surveillance may have done more for filmmakers who can now show crystal-clear overhead views without having to suspend disbelief than it did for real people fighting in real wars.

I also felt that the movie in a way glossed over some important issues that are crucial to this kind of experience.  It posits a terrorist movement that coordinates things perfectly without using technology so that it is "invisible" to us.  I would like to see how they think those messages get all over the world: do they have that many international couriers?  It gives us a meeting between a main character and a bad-guy that I think is supposed to be satisfying for the viewer, but I felt begged belief and realism to a strong degree.

The movie's heroes make some bizarre moves, e.g. sending emails from one source to another who will have no idea what to do with the emails he receives; and do not convince me that this was the only way to do it. While in the movie, the cool-cat leader of the Jordanian intelligence decries torture as inefficient and foolish, according to Human Rights Watch torture in Jordanian prisons is routine.

I'm not sure where politics of the people who made this movie lie -- and I'm not clear they've thought too much about it either.
Directed By:
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 128 minutes
Distributed By: Warner Bros.

Stream from Amazon Prime
Watch / Stream on Hulu

For more information about Body of Lies visit the FlickDirect Movie Database. For more reviews by Marco Chacon please click here.

Body of Lies images are courtesy of Warner Bros.. All Rights Reserved.

FlickDirect, Marco  Chacon

Exposed to radioactive films early on, Marco Chacon has gained proportional strength and agility, though it hasn't been useful. On the internet, opinions hold sway over facts, and Marco is no exception, often possessing multiple, conflicting views. Marco is also the author of the JAGS Roleplaying Gaming System.

Read More Body of Lies Reviews

Physical Media: Blu-ray Review
Fiction normally mirrors the truth, and nothing is a truer testament to this statement than the latest political/action thriller from Riddley Scott and Warner Bros, Body of Lies.When CIA operative Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio) uncovers the presence of a potential terrorist leader operating out of...
Full Review | Grade: B


Today's Digital HD DealsView All

WAS: $14.99
NOW: $7.99
Justice League: Gods and Monsters
Justice League: Gods and Monsters
WAS: $14.99
NOW: $12.99
Rock of Ages
Rock of Ages
WAS: $14.99
NOW: $12.99

Latest ReviewsView All

The Gate Wal-Mart Exclusive SteelBook
Physical Media: Blu-ray Review
May 14, 2024 EST
The Garfield Movie
Movie / Film Review
May 23, 2024 EST
Madame Web Review: Dakota Johnson Leads Sony's Uni...
Physical Media: 4K UHD Review
Apr 29, 2024 EST