Ridley Scott’s latest blockbuster tells the story of an American intelligence operative working to track down a terrorist who has, without warnings, orchestrated a bombing campaign around the world.
While the plot weaves its way to a predictable end, Body Of Lies concentrates on what may or may not be the way in which the intelligence service operates, and specifically the dynamic between a field agent (DiCaprio) living and putting his life in danger on a daily basis, the strategist (Crowe) based in Washington, away from the sharp end but always on the end of a phone to advise DiCaprio of his next move, and the head of the Jordanian intelligence department (Strong).
The three of them want the same outcome, but all prove themselves willing to withhold information and lie to each other to achieve it. Lies lead to trust issues lead to more lies lead to more trust issues.
DiCaprio again tries to get away from the typecasting that he perhaps feels has dogged his baby-faced career. But it doesn’t matter how much you scruff him up and plaster a beard on his face, he’s still Leonardo DiCaprio, and this type of role just doesn’t sit well with him. He clearly threw himself into the role, and as a method actor, his attention to detail is plain to see, but the whole still doesn’t ring true.
Crowe does well as his lardy, arrogant superior who dismisses the loyalty DiCaprio feels towards his informants, instead focusing on getting the result he wants no matter what. It is Strong however that impresses the most with an assured performance. Dressed in dapper suits and surrounded by money and women, his character is the smoothest of the smooth and Strong, who is making a successful transition from the small screen to Hollywood pulls it off magnificently, stealing scenes from the other two at any opportunity.
Meanwhile DiCaprio gets himself caught up in a subplot involving a nurse who attends to him, charmingly played by Goshifteh Farahani, an Iranian actress making an impressive American film debut. This touch of romance adds a lightness to a rather dry story, but ultimately falls short of really engaging the viewer.
There are some truly painful scenes as often happens when Hollywood tries to deal with sensitive issues, and it’s no different here as the characters, and vicariously the viewers, endure a few lectures about the situation in the Middle East and the consequences of American interference in it.
Set against a bleak and unglamorous backdrop as we go from Iraq to Jordan and from Turkey to Syria, the film is not always easy on the eye. The plotting feels weak and unimaginative, and it at times feels like the writers have a message that they want to get across, but they’re not quite sure what it is. However, saved by solid performances and earnest direction, Body Of Lies is a decent film – it just isn’t as important as it wants to be.