Ridley Scott brings in a couple of A-listers in Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe to take a shot at the spy globe trotting genre, and what we get is a very real feeling and superbly made film that will keep you guessing until the end.
Roger Ferris (DiCaprio) is a C.I.A. operative in the middle east collecting intel and eliminating targets under the watchful eye of his supervisor Ed Hoffman (Crowe) who sits at home in D.C. and at Langley calling the shots from overhead surveillance from the sky. Hoffman is a firm believer in the fight against terrorism, and will do anything he can to gain control of a situation, sometimes at the expense of Ferris not really being in on the big picture. Ferris is the working grunt, risking his life and cover to help our intelligence flow, and he is not naive to that either, using it to pull some leverage on the ground when he can. Either way, both men are out to get Al-Saleem, the most active Islamic Terrorist at the time who avoids being found by never getting on a cell phone, the internet, nothing; everything is face to face with him. Al-Saleem is a thorn in the fight on terror’s side, as he has successfully been bombing European cities for a recent time with the U.S. government always two steps behind it seems.
Hoffman redeploys Ferris after his latest intel grab to Jordan to investigate a possible safe house that was discovered in the recovered documents. Ferris takes command of the local C.I.A. operation there and decides he needs the assistance of Hani, a Jordanian official that will allow Ferris access to his secret service for reconnaissance activities on the supposed safe house. Hani is big on trust and the truth though, something that Ferris fully believes in, but Hoffman’s antics could cause problems down the line.
To say more would be a disservice to William Monahan’s excellent script that keeps you on your toes and always wondering where it is going to go next. Monahan crafts a very informed and realistic approach to the spy film and it feels like this could/is happening everyday over in the Middle East. Nothing really seems all that far fetched and the Monahan never really gives into cliché when it comes to the genre. His best asset to keeping things different is the excellent character of Ferris that DiCaprio pulls off so damn well. Ferris is a bad ass super spy, though he is not written with the suaveness of a Bond, or the perfect precision of a Bourne, he is just real, but really damn good. He hits bumps in the road, he might have a bit of a struggle to overcome obstacles, but he gets the job done. He is extremely smart and excels at his job, so while he might not be as flashy or grand as the two resident super spies of cinema, I wouldn’t be ashamed to put money on him in a fight; he can definitely hold his own and is one tough son of a bitch. Hoffman is the perfect supervisor, full of himself, scheming, kind of a jerk, but Crowe makes him likable even in his pompousness. Crowe does a great job here, though I wish there was more screen time for him, as he is a bit in the background to Ferris, which is fine, because DiCaprio is fantastic here. Mark Strong also turns in some great work as Hani, as he is imposing, intimidating, and mysterious all at once, and will have you always guessing if there is more to him then he lets on. Rounding out the cast is a possible love interest for Ferris in Golshifteh Farahani’s, Aisha, who does a great job of bringing a sweetness to the relationship she forms with Ferris, while maintaining a since of reserve do to the world they are in. Monahan’s script does an excellent job here as well, in not throwing in some lavish romance for the sake of having one, and what he puts in here is more than appropriate the whole time. Alon Abutbul also turns in some great work as Al-Saleem, making the most of his short amounts of screen time that he has.
In the end, Body of Lies, is a great spy movie that is expertly acted and crafted, but overall doesn’t have the story or suspense to knock your socks off. Though, I don’t think the films intention is to thrill as much as it is to inform of this world that is out there, and make the viewer ask questions as to what are we doing over there in the Middle East, and to that effect it does well. Like Scott’s last effort, American Gangster, you can’t really find anything wrong with this film, but you walk away feeling like it fell short of being something magnificent, but at least you can add it to one of the many great films of the year.