Starring: Leonardo Di Caprio, Russell Crowe, Mark Strong, Golshifte Farahani
Director: Ridley Scott
Seen-it-all-before terror drama. Di Caprio's good though.
Dutch actress Carice van Houten (Black Book) filmed scenes as Ferris' wife Gretchen, but did not make the final cut.
Rendition (2007), The Kingdom (2007), Syriana (2005)
Terrorists! Bombs! Torture! For Leonardo Di Caprio read Jake Gyllenhaal, Jamie Foxx, George Clooney...
Marina Golbahari gives an astonishing performance as a 12-year-old girl who poses as a boy to provide for her family in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.
The Insider (2001)
Russell Crowe bulks up to put in a good performance. Also, that rarest of things these days, a great Al Pacino performance.
Body Of Lies - 06/10
Ridley Scott has never made a truly bad film and this is no exception. Scott's legendary attention to detail is present and correct here. Apparently, in the scenes involving British police (filmed in the US), not only were all officers shown, wearing full uniform under their body armour, but appropriate "rubbish" was deposited in the bins. Despite all of this, Scott doesn't really seem to get under the film's skin, or for that matter, ours.
When I think of Sir Ridley Scott, I immediately think Blade Runner or Alien. Those films are nearly 30 years old. Since then his work has been consistent, but not spectacular - only Gladiator stands out. Maybe I'm being harsh on a 71-year-old with such a prolific output (He has completed 8 films in the last 8 years and has two more upcoming on his slate! Not even mentioning his Scott Free Productions work.), but every time I watch any of the three films I've just mentioned I see far more innovation and invention than in any of those he has helmed subsequently. Where is the show-stopping scene to match the chestburster in Alien? Where is the sensuality to match the scenes with Deckard and Rachel? Where is the character's journey to match that of Gladiator's Maximus?
Based on the David Ignatius novel of the same name, the script comes from Oscar-winning The Departed writer William Monahan, who last worked with Scott on the disappointing Kingdom Of Heaven.
Di Caprio plays CIA agent Roger Ferris stationed in Jordan. He is part of an operation looking for information on terrorists who have been exploding bombs in civilian areas. A beefy Crowe is Ed Hoffman, Ferris' handler back in The States, pulling the strings. When Ferris uncovers information on the Islamist mastermind Al-Saleem (Alon Aboutboul), he devises a plan to infiltrate Al-Saleem's terrorist network. Hoffman, it seems, has his own ideas about how the scheme should play out.
British actor Mark Strong, puts in an eye catching turn as the Chief of Jordanian Intelligence, Hani Salaam. Ferris forms an uneasy union with Salaam, it is this alliance which provide the film's meatiest moments.
While the movie contains a few slick action beats, it always feels as if these have been included to stop the audience getting too bored or bogged down with the weighty subject matter. Also, a torture scene does show up eventually and is suitably wince-inducing for any Hostel fans who may have wandered in.
There are few attempts made to get into the minds of the terrorists, certain explanations are given by Strong and Crowe, we are instead asked to see what a nice place the middle east can be. The main device for this is a clumsy romantic interlude for Di Caprio as he attempts to woo a young nurse, Aisha (Golshifte Farahani). While this subplot feels desperately convoluted, Di Caprio actually shines in these moments - it's the kind of thing he does in his sleep. Charm and sex-appeal are second nature to him.
Russell Crowe's presence is distracting. An actor of his stature should have more to do. It takes away from what Di Caprio is doing. It also doesn't help that as a handler always wired to a headset, he seems to be literally phoning in the performance. It's a serious flaw in a film which seems to slow down whenever Hoffman turns up.
In fact, it is a very good central performance from Di Caprio as we have come to expect. It is patronising to call it a grown-up performance (He is a year older than me, after all!), but despite the scraggly beard he still has such a boyish face. I suspect this is what makes him work harder and seek out roles that allow him to "ugly-up" a bit, as well as provide complex characterisations. Unfortunately, this is not one of them as Ferris seems almost dangerously naive, although this is the fault of the writing not the acting. That elusive Academy Award is not very far away, although, I fear, this will not be his year.
In these post 9/11 times, Hollywood is scrabbling about to put their particular spin on the War On Terror. Every film has a young idealist who insists that there is good in the Middle East when he learns more of its culture. Then there is the stern company man who asserts that the only way to 'win' is to use as much force as possible. Finally we have the proud arab (The noughties 'noble savage'), who shows us that our western decadence is not the only answer, and that there is much to admire in their more simple way of life.
There are two ways that the studios can fix this model and finally produce some ground-breaking movies. First is to wait. History always brings perspective. The other is simple, remove the balance and let us draw our own conclusions. Sadly, that's just not the Hollywood way.