Body of Lies (2008)

I’m still not quite sure what Body of Lies is about. It’s not the plot, or the premise, that is confusing, but more so in its purpose. I don’t know why it was made, or what message it was trying to give off. It is a film that doesn’t seem to have much reason to exist, and this rubbed off on me while watching it. I kept thinking to myself “why am I watching this?” It didn’t seem to be because I was looking for a message, or even a purpose. The film just seemed empty.

As for the story, CIA agent Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio) has gone down to the Middle East to hunt a known terrorist leader. His orders come from his boss Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe), who communicates mostly by cell phone. There is tension between them from the start, with neither fully trusting the other. They are at each other’s throats, figuratively of course, with Ferris’ boss being in America, but they also seem to be good enough friends. Along the way, Ferris meets a few other characters with the only memorable one being played by Mark Strong.

I’m not even sure what type of film Body of Lies is trying to be. It isn’t dramatic, as any tension between characters occurs over the telephone, but it also isn’t action-packed enough to constitute being an action film. There are some explosions at the beginning, but that’s about it. It mostly involves characters talking to one another, wishing things were more interesting. Or maybe that was just me. The film was boring, for the most part.

It might have worked out fine had we been given reasons to care about any of the characters, but this doesn’t happen. Ferris is in the middle of a divorce, good for him. That doesn’t lead anywhere, except freeing him up to have a relationship with a girl he meets while overseas. Hoffman doesn’t get any development either, staying exactly the same throughout the course of the film. There is nothing there to like or hate with either character. They have no strengths, apart from the assets given to them by the CIA, and no faults.

Good acting doesn’t save the plot, which goes on for far too long and doesn’t accomplish anything.

The acting is the one strength of the film, with all the actors playing their one-dimensional roles well. They don’t take anything away from the characters, and while they don’t add anything either, there doesn’t really seem like there is anything to add. There isn’t much they could add, apart from possibly having DiCaprio practice his Arabic more. It sounded like an American trying to speak it. He wasn’t terrible, and it was ambitious giving him so many lines to speak in the foreign language, but it sounded unnatural. Mark Strong does a good job with his accent and dialogue, though, and I’m not sure if I would have figured out he wasn’t native to the area had I not known of him beforehand.

Director Ridley Scott is known in-part for his director’s cut DVD releases. It almost seemed like there should be one for Body of Lies, and that the studio forced some cuts upon the film. There are a couple of scenes that were cut oddly, as well as one or two times where it seemed like parts were cut out to save time. That’s a noble cause, as the film did seem overlong, but the odd job done on the editing seemed off, almost unprofessional. I have no idea whether or not there were any imposed restriction set upon the film, but that’s just what it seemed like.

One would think that the title “Body of Lies,” would lead to many switch-arounds in terms of characters. I counted one. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but the film was already lacking in both action and drama, so a twist in the plot might have made things slightly exciting. This isn’t the case, however, and instead the one major twist occurs near the end of the film, and doesn’t really impact the story all that much. There are lies, and a lot of them, but it almost seemed like the characters knew them all along. Nobody acts surprised at the revelations that occur; not the characters, and certainly not the audience.

I was hoping to like Body of Lies. It had good actors, with a premise that seemed like it could be entertaining. It ended up being a boring film that didn’t have much purpose. It had no reason to be made. The acting is fine, save for DiCaprio’s Arabic, but good acting doesn’t save the plot, which goes on for far too long and doesn’t accomplish anything. There is no message the film is trying to convey, and no reason to give it a watch. It’s instantly forgettable, with the only impression left in your mind being one of cell phones and Bluetooth headsets.

Conclusion: Body of Lies is a confusing, messy movie.

Recommendation: Body of Lies is one Ridley Scott movie that’s easily skippable.

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