Based on the 2007 spy novel by David Ignatius, Body of Lies tells the story of a CIA operative Roger Ferris (DiCaprio) who is sent to Jordan to track down an Al-Qaeda mastermind, all the while treading a narrow tightrope of loyalty to his Jordanian hosts and his manipulative American boss Ed Hoffman (Crowe).
Anybody who’s seen the trailers could be forgiven for thinking the story revolves around double-agent action and the betrayal of Ferris by Hoffman, but the actual story is much more mundane. Instead we are served a tepid broth of ridiculous subterfuge as white pretty boy American Ferris moves with virtual impunity through the teeming streets of Amman Jordan with nary a worried look over his shoulder or the attraction of attention from the locals. Only during a scene where Ferris takes his newfound Iranian sweetheart out for tea does reality intrude as the couple are bombarded with glares from Jordanian men.
Compounding the film’s problems are plot twists and turns which seem designed as nothing more than padding. Ferris flies to Jordan, Ferris gets expelled from Jordan, Ferris flies to Washington, Ferris flies to the UK, Ferris flies back to Jordan, Hoffman flies to Jordan, Hoffman returns home to take care of his kids – an on it goes. This is the sort of stuff you expect to see in an episode of The Amazing Race, not a spy thriller.
In body-punishing loyalty to his craft, Crowe gained an impressive 63 pounds of flab for the role of portly Ed Hoffman, thus joining the small select club of actors consisting of Robert De Niro and Christian Bale as thespians who’ve subjected themselves to massive weight gain or loss for their roles. It’s too bad that everyone else involved didn’t share Crowe’s level of dedication to quality, for if they did, we’d have a far better film on our hands than this sub-par mess.
SECOND OPINION | Robert Hull **½ While Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe might want to believe their working relationship mirrors that of Martin Scorsese and Robert DeNiro’s febrile partnership in the 1970s, there’s a body of evidence building that the duo miss just as often as they hit. For the critical and commercial success of Gladiator there’s the baffling A Good Year and for the kudos-grabbing style of American Gangster there’s this, Body of Lies, a confusing, confounding movie that for all its heavyweight creative talent never seems sure of what it wants to say. Had this been a "conventional" thriller then all might have been bearable, but when you involve Iraq, Iran and US foreign policy in your story then you really need to be more committed and knowledgeable about the situation. Add to this plenty of corny dialogue (some lines even get the privilege of being repeated several times in different situations), needless over-acting from DiCaprio, plus the insertion of an implausible love story, and you have a classic example of a film spreading itself far too thinly.
EXTRAS *** An audio commentary with Ridley SCott, William Monahan and author David Ignatius; Actionable Intelligence: Deconstructing Body of Lies "focus points", which show behind-the-scenes material if you click "enter" on your remote when a symbol appears on the screen during the film (but they can also be watched separately as featurettes); and a few deleted scenes, inclusing an alternate ending, all of which can be watched with or without a commentary from Scott.