Director Ridley Scott and phone-chucker Russell Crowe just can’t get enough of one another – this is their third film together in as many years. But while Body of Lies has so much going for it – tough leads including an energized Leo DiCaprio, a director with strong visual style and a zeitgeist plundering Middle East-set story – it manages to fall just short of paydirt.
With no time spent on introductions, we’re dropped right in with the wirey-bearded DiCaprio, as his character Roger Ferris works on the ground in Iraq for the CIA, trying to infiltrate a terrorist cell responsible for some shocking bombings in England. A bulked-up Crowe – almost looking like John Goodman – plays Ferris’ boss Ed Hoffman, who spends his time directing proceedings from the comfort of spy planes or casually dealing with international espionage via his hands-free cellphone while taking his kids to school.
It’s a good set up – allowing the two to argue about the difference between making operational decisions from a distance and making them in the field when people are being tortured and killed before your eyes. Unfortunately, when things should be tightly coiled and tense, they tend to meander, before the plot is pretty much derailed by an ill-fitting romance, implausibly squeezed into the proceedings to give DiCaprio something to lose.
All the elements you’d expect from a War On Terror drama are present and correct in Body of Lies – explosions, intrigue, tactical ingenuity, moral compromises and plot twists – but they just don’t coalesce into a film that rises above the pack. This is an uninspired middle rank action drama given some style and marketability by a dynamic and watchable leading man. Far from Ridley Scott’s – or anyone else’s – finest hour.