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Body Of Lies


What is the difference between torture and punishment? According to Ridley Scott’s latest thriller, which casts a harshly critical eye on the spy game, it is simply the fact that one is efficient and the other is not. Set against the backdrop of the infamous “war on terror”, Body of Lies centres on the hardships of a CIA agent who heads to Jordan to track down a high-ranking terrorist. He soon runs into a web of deceit and lies: but these originate from his friends, not his enemies.

Leonardo Di Caprio plays Roger FarrisWilliam Monahan’s (who also won an Oscar for The Departed) adaptation of David Ignatius’ novel is firmly entrenched in the tradition of Hollywood espionage films such as Three Days of the Condor, The Hunt for Red October, Syriana and, of course, the James Bond and Jason Bourne franchises. Here the focus is very much on the “end-justifies-the mean”-driven American foreign policy under the Bush administration.

The film stars frequent Scott collaborators Russell Crowe who put on 50 pounds to play Ed Hoffman, a corpulent and morally-impaired CIA senior agent and Leonardo Di Caprio who plays Roger Farris, a young, idealist and increasingly disenfranchised CIA field agent. Last but not least, new Hollywood face and British star Mark Strong portrays Hanni, the sophisticated and suave head of Jordan secret service.

Russell Crowe plays Ed HoffmanDespite the star power, the film lacks acting spark with Crowe especially delivering a range of unsubtle acting tricks. Similarly, the script relies on barely believable twists and turns (notably the dubious deus ex machina climax of the film). And for all the restless James Bond-style hopping from one geopolitical hot spot to another, the film often feels as flat as the Middle East desert.

In the string of post 9/11 Hollywood films, Body of Lies may have come a little too late: when the current era James Bond boasts a more believable moral ambiguity than Di Caprio’s agent with a soft spot for the Middle-East and one of its women, you know you’re veering into dangerous territory.

Body of Lies does not stand as a great Ridley Scott film in the vein of American Gangster or Black Hawk Down. But, even despite its dramatic flaws, the film rightly suggests that a CIA agent can be well-versed in Arabic culture and that American intelligence services could use a lesson or two in the human heart. Let us hope that this at least has more body to it than lies.

Body of Lies is released by Warner Brothers and is on general UK release now.

For more information on the film, visit the official site at