Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio), a CIA agent in Iraq, is reassigned to Jordan to find Al-Saleem (Alon Abutbul), a terrorist threatening to commit attacks all over Europe. Contrary to and against the warning of his successors, Ferris decides to include the Head of Jordanian General Intelligence Department, the well dressed and brilliant Hani Salaam (Mark Strong) in the planning to catch this terrorist. Overweight and callous CIA boss Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe), lives in Washington DC and manages Ferris. It is obvious that Hoffman has left a trail of burned relationships in his wake.
Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe give equally convincing performances. DiCaprio puts his angry face on as he runs around, refreshingly innocent and naive for a spy. Crowe taps into a smarmy quality in a deep, cold sense. Even though both Crowe and DiCaprio are fun to watch, Body of Lies belongs to Mark Strong.
Mark Strong plays Hani Salaam, the Jordanian Intelligence head. Cool, calm, brilliant and smooth, Strong brings an intangible, almost unquantifiably suave quality to the character. He makes Salaam the character to watch, the only character in the story that breaks with stereotypes the west might believe.
Middle Eastern terrorism is a popular theme in movies since 9/11 and the bombings that rocked Spain and England. Our western hearts have a hard time understanding the culture and philosophy of Muslims living in the Middle East. It seems no human civilization could be further from our own. It is easy to make villains of make people who look differently, who live all the way around the world, whose lifestyle only barely resembles our own. There is no challenge to encapsuling the fears of a terrified population and telling them the pill is a dietary supplement of Westernism. It is not tough to make it simple to swallow back down; just make it smooth and good looking and we will gobble it down gleefully.
Body of Lies, a film that pays special attention to the visuals with effortless story transitions, tries to make the point that we should not swallow the fright that fear pharmacologists try to give us. The tragedy is that they can’t do it without asking us to mindlessly supplement our fear using their brand of trepidation treatment. William Monahan, the writer of Body of Lies, and director Ridley Scott do not ask us to stop fearing Middle Eastern Muslim culture, nor do they challenge us to examine why we might be targeted by these Muslim radicals.
Scott and Monahan’s only question to our techniques in finding those who perform acts of terror, and what we should do to them once they are captured.
Monahan and Scott seem to have succumbed to the belief that we may always be in a state of tension with “them”, trying to hold on to our civility as we enter the situational black hole of the Middle East. Our best hope only to prevent ourselves from being deconstructed as we get sucked into a vacuum of fundamentalism.
I am tired of choking down apprehension supplements shoved into every orifice by politicians, the media, Hollywood and my own ignorance. I am beginning to expel the alarmist tablets whole because I am no longer able to metabolize the fear.
Body of Lies pays special attention to the visuals, making choices that add grit, or rich smoothness when necessary.
Strong, Crowe and DiCaprio often drew the audience into the story. Like a good infomercial, if the watcher does not take the time to think about the story, they could easily be sold a product that does not work through production value. Think not western viewer, and your vacancy will be rewarded with a good cinematic time.
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