University of Sussex Students' Newspaper

Scott on secrets and lies

The Badger

ByThe Badger

Dec 1, 2008

Nearly every crime thriller centres its moral high-ground on the issues of trust and deception. It is one of those given clichés that a traitor will be uncovered as the reason why there has been an impossible leakage of vital information, or the best-friend tempted by a better offer betrays his former sidekick. Luckily ‘Body of Lies’ is smarter than a lot of these films, but that doesn’t stop it essentially sticking to the formula that knows best.

Based on the 2007 novel by David Ignatius, ‘Body of Lies’ is the story of undercover CIA man Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his risky attempts to expose and nail a middle-eastern terrorist leader with the help or, as is often the case, hindrance of his superior man Ed Hoffman, played with an uncommon flair for comedy by Russell Crowe. The mission takes Ferris from Jordan to Washington to Dubai and back again as Ferris tries to cipher those working against him.

Director Ridley Scott undeniably has a knack for pace and tension, but despite the wildly frequent globe-trotting and the non-stop car chases, gun combat and colossal explosions, the moral tone remains surprisingly flat. The plot is scrambled together in a glossy package, the bordering-on-implausible script saving leading man DiCaprio by the skin of his teeth just that one time too many. High marks for entertainment value, but the final resolve suffers thanks to a cop-out ending, where everything truly at stake is magically transported to a Hollywood friendly safe-zone of mediocrity.

‘Body of Lies’ is technically excellent, and constructed with diligence and precision, but it preaches a tired message that cinema-goers have all too recently become achingly familiar with. Races and religions consist of good and bad people. Terrorism is disguised in an array of familiar forms. And there is always a righteous white American ready to go the distance, ignore corrupted leaders, get the girl and save the day. It’s fair that we expect more from a director of Scott’s calibre, but if it’s what you like ‘Body of Lies’ delivers the goods better than most.

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