Body of Lies Captures Shifting Alliances of a Long War
- Friday, October 10, 2008
Ferris grows increasingly exasperated by Hoffman, who watches Ferris’ every move on a big board in the CIA’s Virginia headquarters, thanks to a satellite that tracks the movement of Ferris and his contacts in the region. (After Eagle Eye, The Dark Knight and the Bourne trilogy, the overriding message of today’s action film seems to be that anyone can be watched anywhere, at any time, thanks to a combination of technology and aggressive—sometimes too aggressive—intelligence efforts.) When Hoffman lies to crucial sources, such as Jordanian intelligence expert Hani Salaam (Mark Strong, who steals the movie from his better known co-stars), it’s up to Ferris to pick up the pieces.
The distance between Hoffman’s cool-headed but questionable tactics and Ferris’ fierce commitment to the men who provide information to him makes Body of Lies more interesting than its narrative sometimes deserves. Do we really need to see extended sequences of cyber-experts hacking their way into someone’s online accounts so they can use the information for their own purposes? Body of Lies is slowed more than once by the filmmakers’ mistaken notion that watching computer wizards enter quick keystrokes makes for invigorating cinema. Also, a romance between Ferris and an Iranian nurse feels tacked on, even though it doesn’t terribly detract from the movie.
Those few story elements hurt this otherwise well-paced, well-performed film. The pairing of DiCaprio and Crowe has some fine moments, although Crowe’s Southern accent isn’t fully convincing and the film’s sympathies clearly lie with DiCaprio’s desperate field agent—a much more complex role. Body of Lies would have been a better film had it given each man’s view equal credence, but even those who identify with some of Hoffman’s views will find that they can go only so far in defending him. Still, Ferris’ views are not completely opposed to Hoffman’s. When challenged about the United States’ war effort in Iraq, Ferris couches his forceful response in a way that defends U.S. interests, and his certainty appears not to be a put on.
The Bible tells us that “a truthful witness does not deceive, but a false witness pours out lies” (Proverbs 14:5), yet it assures us in Psalms 12:7-8 that the Lord “will keep us safe and protect us from such people forever.” The current War on Terror has left many people feeling lied to, but the goal of our Jihadist enemies has been well documented. How do we fight an ideology?
We’re in a murky war, and this murky movie does a fine job of capturing the tensions and shifting alliances that characterize that ongoing conflict.
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- Language/Profanity: Lord’s name taken in vain; persistent foul language.
- Drugs/Alcohol: Smoking and drinking.
- Sex/Nudity: Crude reference to female anatomy.
- Violence/Disturbing Imagery: Morbid jokes about those who were beheaded on videotape; lots of gunfire and killing; a man wired with a bomb is shot, but detonates the bomb anyway; helicopters fire missiles; close up of bone fragments being removed from a wounded man; man and dogs are stabbed; rabies vaccination injections are shown; a building is bombed; fingers are smashed by a hammer; a man is spit on and his head is slammed into a table.
- Marriage: One character is finalizing a divorce.
- Religion: Muslim religion is not examined in depth, although there is a reference to “takfir methodology,” which permits things forbidden by Islam in order to deceive others; an analogy made about “which side of the cross you’re on—you’re either a nailer or a hanger”; a terrorist is accused of misinterpreting the Koran.
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