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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » November 26, 2008
The world of movies
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Body of Lies
November 26, 2008 By Witold Żygulski   
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Director Ridley Scott (The Duellists, Blade Runner, Kingdom of Heaven) draws heavily on the espionage thriller Spy Game (2001) in this, his latest release. Spy Game was directed by Ridley's younger brother Tony (Top Gun, Crimson Tide) and revolves around a strong personality clash between a jaded CIA veteran, played by Robert Redford, and his younger, somewhat more idealistic subordinate, played by Brad Pitt. Body of Lies substitutes Russell Crowe (A Beautiful Mind, Insider, The Quick and the Dead) and Leonardo di Caprio (Titanic, Gangs of New York).

Body of Lies is Scott and Crowe's fourth collaboration after the Oscar-winning box-office smash Gladiator, the romantic comedy A Good Year and the crime drama American Gangster. Crowe plays a very different character in each but Ed Hoffman, the CIA Director of Middle East operations in Body of Lies, drains his reserves of feigned repugnance like no onscreen alter ego ever has. The graying, bespectacled and overweight Hoffman dons whatever is on top of the pile, comports himself with all the grace of an aging rhino, and whiles away entire days monitoring satellite surveillance images while yakking on his cell phone. Being utterly ruthless, duplicitous and manipulative has brought him a great deal of power, although not quite enough to control the two young children he has fathered and secretly detests.

Roger Ferris (di Caprio) is an ambitious CIA agent but more guided by a sense of duty than megalomaniac fantasy. Hoffman is his boss from hell. Ferris's unquestionable courage and professionalism have seen him soar through the ranks. He has now been assigned to capture the leader of an Al Qaeda faction responsible for a spate of terrorist attacks in Europe. Ferris's mission takes him from Iraq to Amman, Jordan, where he teams up with local intelligence chief Hani Salaam (Mark Strong-Stardust, Tristan&Isolde, Munich). Ferris finds him as hard to get along with as Hoffman. Hani-Pasha, as he deigns let people address him, speaks with an upper crust English accent and is resplendently decked out in an expensive suit, a neatly pressed shirt and cufflinks. He is not just light years removed from Hoffman and Ferris when it comes to dress sense and elocution, however. Hani eschews the sophisticated technologies and pots of money the Americans rely on in favor of the time-honored techniques he has inherited. No prizes for guessing who is more effective. As if he doesn't have enough problems, Ferris becomes smitten by a young nurse of Iranian descent and his unrequited courtship just makes a tough assignment even tougher.

As you would expect from Scott, the direction is perfect. Crowe's white hat cannot save him from becoming more loathsome by the minute and Di Caprio is back in his element as a macho hombre. It must have been like being back on set in Martin Scorcese's The Departed or Edward Zwick's Blood Diamond. But not even these two A-list stars could hold Strong down. Hani's character is so powerful that it occasionally eclipses everything in its orbit.
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