Body of Lies

  • 2008-12-10
  • By Talis Saule Archdeacon

TRYING TOO HARD: The veteran director seems to have forgotten that the audience also wants to puzzle over a good mystery.

Director: Ridley Scott

"Body of Lies" is a fun little spy thriller set in the present day terrorist-riddled Middle East.
The action scenes are exciting and fast-paced without being too overwhelming. Strong acting leads to relatively believable characters. The film even brushes on some moral issues 's often a weak point in spy and terrorism films. All in all, it was a pretty good way to spend a few hours.
But it could have been great.

It now seems that veteran filmmaker Ridley Scott is trying to cram so many different elements into one film that none of them can be taken at more than face value.
There were some good action scenes, but they were not the main focus of the film and ended up feeling gratuitous rather than awe-inspiring. There was some superb acting, but the actors jobs were made difficult by a few too many unbelievable situations. There was even a bit of moral philosophizing centered on immoral CIA tactics and Islamic fundamentalism, but these, too, ultimately remain unexplored.

The main problem, however, was that 's in a film based on the concept of nobody knowing who lies and who tells the truth 's the audience was not left with any mysteries to unravel. Viewers got to watch the actors try and figure out the web of deceptions without being given the chance to find the key to any puzzles themselves.

The film opens with CIA operative Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio) meeting with one of his assets in Iraq to get the latest information on al-Qaida operations.
Ferris learns about a terrorist who wants to back out of his impending martyrdom and sell what information he has to the U.S. government. The two promptly go for a drive through the desert to find the repentant terrorist, only to learn after questioning him that Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe), Ferris' boss in Langley, is not prepared to grant the man asylum. The source is left high and dry, with CIA agents waiting to see who comes to kill him.
After a few action scenes, Ferris and his asset go to investigate a terrorist safe-house that the source tipped them off to. A shoot out at the safe house leaves the two fleeing from the location with some valuable intelligence and two trucks full of terrorists in hot pursuit.

Two helicopters come to take out the trucks, but not before an RPG destroys their car and kills Ferris' asset and friend, landing the protagonist in an extended hospital stay.
From there, Hoffman assigns Ferris to track down notorious terrorist Al Salim (Alon Abutbul) in Jordan, and the story begins in earnest. Ferris meets Jordanian Intelligence Chief Hani Salaam (Mark Strong), a charismatic and powerful figure who agrees to cooperate with the CIA on the condition that Ferris never lies to him.
Salaam and Ferris embark on a joint surveillance operation on a major terrorist safe-house in Amman. When another CIA asset, directed by Hoffman, blows their cover, Ferris is forced to run down and kill the terrorist who learned of the operation on the safe-house.

Ferris is bitten by dogs in the fight, and heads to a local hospital to get a series of rabies shots. In the hospital he meets Aisha (Golshifteh Farahani), a local nurse who he quickly becomes infatuated with. The two embark on a troubled romance that is beset with cultural stigmas and cut short by Ferris' perilous job.
He is soon entangled in a jungle of plots of his own making which, when combined with those devised by Salim, Hoffman and Salaam, leave all four characters wondering what the others are doing and who to put their trust in.

The problem is, with so many lies and so much deceit, Scott forgot to leave some plots for the audience to wonder at.

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