Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Body of Lies ★★★

    Masterfully articulated spy films are a spectacle to behold and a pleasure to indulge upon. Films of this nature are innately suspenseful, and they indubitably lure the viewer in with their labyrinthine constructed plots and a charismatic set of characters. "Body of Lies" is a 2008 action spy film that consists of all of these aspects, yet it cannot thoroughly compel us to believe its ostentatious and rather inconceivable construction.

    Roger Ferris is a perspicacious and devoted agent to the Central Intelligence Agency. Apart from a blood sucking divorce that weighs on his conscience, Ferris finds himself on the ground in Iraq, where his current mission is to uncover the whereabouts of Al-Saleem, a fictitious jihadist terrorist. Ferris engages in human intelligence methods to infiltrate the inner workings of this faction and, with the help of a local associate, he has found a man prepared to speak in exchange for asylum. However, this plan goes awry when the informant is captured, thus forcing Ferris to assassinate him in fear that he would reveal his identity. Another off target bust, which ultimately leads to an RPG shootout, will force agent Ferris into an alliance with Hani Saleem, the stern and perceptive head of the Jordanian intelligence.

    Of course, although it seems as if Ferris journeys through the treacherous Middle East alone, support does reside in the form of Ed Hoffman, a superior agent who sits cloaked in the darkness of a CIA headquarters operating room with a vast array of technology at his disposal. Hoffman is the driving force of this "results-driven" company and, in stark contrast to Ferris, he spends most of his time completing daily routine endeavors, such as dropping off the kids at school and catching his daughter's soccer game. Hoffman will only grace Ferris with his presence if situations become defiant, otherwise sticking to manipulating procedures that undermine the integrity of Ferris. Add in Aisha, a Jordanian nurse and love interest for Ferris, and "Body of Lies" becomes the fully invested thriller that we ultimately hope for, despite the fact that we are left with a subpar resolution.

    The performances on display in this film consist of a blend of subtle interactions and swindling tactics. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Roger Ferris with a sense of style and dignity that we are ordinarily accustomed to seeing from this highly respected actor. DiCaprio portrays the preeminent qualities of this lead character on screen, who, at length, trusts his own instincts in lieu of the orders spewing from Langley, Virginia. Ferris is a man who leans on his intricate knowledge of terrorist behavior and the relationships formed through mutual understandings and trust.
    Russell Crowe is Ed Hoffman, a one-dimensional character who sloths through the film like a stick in the mud. There is nothing admirable (or even remotely captivating) about this individual to hold our interest. Nevertheless, Crowe extracts as much substance from this character that is humanly possible, even if he is just the epitome of a customary CIA employee, who flounders at sociability and mistimes photographs of family functions. In addition to these well-known faces are other notable performances, including Mark Strong, who steps into the role of Hani Saleem. Strong is noted for playing cold and distant villains, and he provides roughly the same range here although this time he is an ally. The relationships of these three men essentially spur the development of the plot and provide the backbone to this manhunt for terror.

    There is the notion that this film will be masterful if not simply for the lending hand of sensational director Ridley Scott. The celebrated director has produced several masterpieces in his time, and he is best known for his attachment to the genre of science fiction. However, this is quite the unfamiliar territory for Scott, who is best left to methodical and subtle camera motions that grip viewers tighter than a carnivore clasped on the body of its prey. "Body of Lies" is a film that relies on fast-paced action sequences to enthrall its audience, which is an unflattering sentiment toward Scott's directorial style. The eerie atmosphere produced by the gelid depths of space cannot be replaced with the desolate ambiance of the Middle East.

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