Roger Ferris is a CIA agent assigned to track down a known terrorist in Iraq. His handler is a bureaucrat named Hoffman who is pulling the strings from his home in the US.
There are so many fascinating details about Body of Lies. The entire basis of the story, based on the novel by David Ignatius, focuses on distrust and disloyalty in the name of winning the war on terror. It is no wonder the movie failed to find an audience in today’s society.
Leonardo DiCaprio is CIA agent Roger Ferris, deep in Iraq hunting down known terrorist Al Saleem. He in controlled by his handler, Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe), a man who mostly communicates by cell phone, although he does make a couple of trips to Iraq to deal with imminent problems. The contrast between these characters is brilliant. While Ferris is under constant threat of death and is always in the line of fire, Hoffman is usually giving orders while taking his son to the bathroom, watching his daughter in soccer practice and lounging on his patio drinking tea. It is a fascinating look at how the men pulling the strings are sitting in their comfy homes, completely out of touch with what it takes to actually make progress in the war while the operatives are forced to break promises, let their friends and “assets” get gunned down in the streets and are used as bait to lure terrorists out of hiding.
The theme of the movie is trust no one.
This entire concept is showcased while Ferris makes friends with Salaam (Mark Strong), the head of the Jordanian General Intelligence Department. While Ferris believes he needs to remain honest with these allies and keep the lines of communication open, Hoffman continues to pull strings and make counter strikes behind the backs of everyone involved. It is most interesting that when he pulls these stunts, and Ferris’ life is put in more peril danger, Hoffman seems unconcerned and only spouts the line that “no one is innocent.” While Ferris watches his associates murdered, Hoffman shows no remorse and only seems ready to replace that particular “asset” with another piece of live bait.
Both DiCaprio and Crowe are solid in their roles. Crowe seems to be channeling the character he portrayed in The Insider while infusing him with the personality of Al Pacino’s character from the same movie. He is a man who shows that he cares very little about the world around him and plays chess master with hundreds of lives at stake. There are a few scenes where he lets his humanity shine through, making his character a very interesting piece of the puzzle. DiCaprio plays a much more humane character, a man who has seen too many people die both by his side and at his hands. He is jaded and his loss of trust in humanity shows through his eyes. Both men are at the top of their game here.
Ridley Scott seems to be channeling his brother in this film. The movie is a distant cousin of Tony Scott’s Enemy of the State. At the start of the film, Hoffman explains it is so hard to catch the terrorists in their homes because the terrorists have thrown away their cell phones and internet connections. While America is an enemy “from the future”, able to track down anyone, anywhere with the touch of a computer key, the terrorists are hiding in the open, disconnected from the tracking devices of American security.
Many shots are shown from the point of view of these tracking devices. Satellites, airplanes, and computers are used at various points to see anyone, anywhere and hear all conversations in the name of National Security. At one point, Ferris gets a phone call from his divorce attorney and the call is eavesdropped on by hacking into this phone. While Enemy of the State used this development as a fear of the future, Body of Lies uses it as fact-of-the-matter certainties. It is a scary development that anyone, anywhere, can be watching and listening to anything you are doing and this movie markets those fears.
The title of the film is used to showcase the fact that every character in the story is entangled in a web of deceit. When Ferris meets Salaam, the Intelligence head only asks for one thing – complete honesty. By the end of the film everyone from Ferris to Salaam to Hoffman has lied to each other, made moves behind each other’s backs, and put everyone in the field in mortal danger. No one can be trusted and no one is above deceit.
The film is shot beautifully, not a surprise for a Ridley Scott picture. It flows nicely and has some very nice set pieces. The acting is top notch and the story is frighteningly real. However, at the end I feel a bit slighted at the film. It seems things happen just to move the film from one plot point to the next. There is a love interest for Ferris that seems added just to add tension to the scenes where he must confront Al Saleem on his own. Nothing is done with this character that makes her appearance anymore than just a plot contrivance. There are quite a few moments like that, scenes just added to move the story, where it might have been better to make these little subplots a bit more important. While Body of Lies looks beautiful and is well acted, I feel there is a better picture somewhere and it was never allowed to shine properly here.
Commentary – The commentary track is with director Ridley Scott, Screenwriter William Monahan and Novel Writer David Ignatius, although they are recorded separately and pieced together. The commentary is good in delivering the historical intricacies but loses a bit for those wanting to know about the filmmaking techniques. For this movie that is perfectly acceptable. Between the three men, there is a lot of information here and it is a nice listen.
Deleted Scenes (14:43) – If you watch this with the Ridley Scott commentary, you get a real treat. Scott starts the feature standing in front of his storyboard wall. On the wall is a photograph from every scene in the movie. He then explains how he can take the photographs after shooting the movie and move them around to reorder parts of the story to improve on it. There is then a part of the board on the right which is called the “Omits Section” and that is where the deleted scenes end up. It is a pretty cool look at the development of the film. He pulls out the old line “Losing Your Babies” to discuss cutting favorite scenes. There is a great scene that was left out concerning the relationship between Ferris and Aisha where she witnesses him explode into violence while defending himself. Scott explains the scene unbalanced the end of the film. There is also an alternate ending that does not contain commentary because they were still considering this for inclusion when the commentary was recorded.
Interactive Debriefing – This feature includes interviews with Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott, viewed by topic, participant or both. The topics are Story, Collaboration and Intelligence. Each interview during each segment is around 2 minutes long. It is kind of funny that Crowe goes into detail about working with Scott but never really mentions DiCaprio during the Collaboration section of the feature. All the interview segments are also included in the Focus Points.
Focus Points in High Definition (1:20:17) – You can wither watch this along with the movie or on its own. If you watch it with the movie, a symbol appears at the top of the screen and you click enter on your remote to watch that specific feature. The features look at everything from script, production design, acting, history, and real-world politics among other highlights concerning the making of the film. It’s pretty comprehensive in its detail.