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With: Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe, Mark Strong, Golshifteh Farahani, Oscar Isaac, Ali Suliman, Alon Abutbul, Vince Colosimo, Simon McBurney, Mehdi Nebbou, Michael Gaston, Kais Nashif, Jamil Khoury, Lubna Azabal, Ali Khalil, Michael Stuhlbarg
Written by: William Monahan, based on a novel by David Ignatius
Directed by: Ridley Scott
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence including some torture, and for language throughout
Running Time: 129
Date: 10/05/2008

Body of Lies (2008)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Terror Bites

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Like many other filmmakers in recent years, Ridley Scott has discovered that by making a brain-dead thriller set in Iraq rather than a brain-dead thriller set in the United States, he automatically gets bonus consideration. It's as if he has ripped his story from the headlines and has something essential to say about current political policy. The problem is that anyone who actually sees Body of Lies will have a hard time taking it as seriously as audiences took Scott's Black Hawk Down, released just mere weeks after 9/11. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Roger Ferris, a CIA agent deep undercover in Iraq and the surrounding regions. Any time he makes contact with someone important or uncovers any major intel, too many cooks spoil the stew, from double-crossing double agents, to Ferris' aggressive boss Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe) trying to run things from his comfy house back in the States. So Ferris gets the idea to invent a new, fake terrorist faction to draw the attention of the real terrorist that they're trying to catch. Unfortunately, at the same time, the divorced Ferris falls in love with a local nurse (Golshifteh Farahani) and tries to romance her in the midst of all this trouble. Adapted from the 2007 novel by Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, the movie admittedly has some great stuff in it, like the best way to pick up a hostage in the desert while avoiding overhead surveillance cameras. And Crowe is fun to watch as his character tries to be a good dad (helping his son use the toilet, attending his daughter's soccer game) while constantly chattering on his phone and nibbling on snacks. (He looks like he packed on some weight for his role.) But the overall material ranges from routine to ridiculous, and Scott and screenwriter William Monahan don't bother to use the exotic, war-torn locations for much more than set dressing.

DVD Details: I received the "widescreen" DVD edition from Warner Home Video for review, which is the stripped-down version, containing only language and scene selections. There's a two-disc special edition with more stuff.

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