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Body of Lies | Review

Defense is the Best Offense: Scott probes what happens when the allies and Allah mix.

The size of a country’s circle of friends is ultimately decided by, how well one plays with others. With the kind of historical blemishes and failed foreign policy track record that the U.S have, the notion of courtyard bully rings especially true. Ridley Scott proposes that the CIA has multiple agendas on the war on terror when lead by arrogant arm chair decision makers and, the incognito ground troops that are one blunder away from certain death. Stylistically speaking, Body of Lies contains Scott’s trademark visual treatment of geopolitical hotbed zones and advances the double cross, spy game narrative with a pacing that yields satisfactory results, but scribe William Monahan’s simplified formula, bad guy and good guy facile arrangement is less striking and impressionable than say, a CIA agent stationed in the Middle East film like Syriana – where the lead character and story arch is much more complex, not so black and white and richer in narrative design.

Scott avoids getting knee deep in political jargon by placing emphasis on the not-so-chummy relationship between well-defined characters toplined by Leonardo DiCaprio and Scott-regular with a couple of belt-sizes more in Russell Crowe. The distinctive differences is that the field worker with idealist motivations places more value on other folks in civilian clothes than perhaps the realists who see human life as simple ponds in a larger chess match. Unfortunately, the tension between these two characters is advertised throughout, the in-house disagreements over strategy are as clumsy as the nonchalant subplot inclusion of romantic proposal between a nurse and DiCaprio’s fluent Arab-speaking American character that has an appreciation for a culture and a people who clearly do not share the same sentiment in return. The reasons why DiCaprio’s Roger Ferris is so bent on doing one good deed after another remains aloof — and the dreamy certainly adds no value to this plight, however, the main interest lies in the core story element retained from David Ignatius’ novel where mimicking the actions of a terrorist whose expertise lies in bombs and loss of human lives.

Actor Mark Strong, a spitting image of Andy Garcia, is perhaps the only character that delivers the goods. A high-ranking Jordanian intelligence player who seems to understand the bigger picture for his nation’s politics sets up a personal agenda in accordance to a strong set of principles, unfortunately, Body of Lies never cares to establish why the film’s protagonist belongs in a headspace where he feels he owes his life to people and a culture clearly detached from his own. Fans of the action sequences and technical work found in Scott’s Black Hawk Down will find more of the same high octane, but in smaller doses and will appreciate moments where bone cartilage acts as shrapnel, but will find minor issues of the heart and accompanying tetanus shots less appealing in the geopolitical scheme of things. Clearly, this is far from being the weakest of the recent wave of spy games where Americans overstep their limits in the Middle East.

Rating 2 stars

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist and critic at (founded in 2000). Eric is a regular at Sundance, Cannes and TIFF. He has a BFA in Film Studies at the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013 he served as a Narrative Competition Jury Member at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson's This Teacher (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022 he served as a New Flesh Comp for Best First Feature at the 2022 Fantasia Intl. Film Festival. Current top films for 2022 include Tár (Todd Field), All That Breathes (Shaunak Sen), Aftersun (Charlotte Wells).

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