2008-10-24 / Columnists


'Body Of Lies' - Muddling The Mid-East Mess
By Robert Snyder

ROBERT SNYDER ROBERT SNYDER The Mid-East situation is such a mess that it is hard to imagine messing it up even more. Yet, filmmaker Ridley Scott manages to do just that with "Body of Lies."

Or, maybe Scott's film's focus, the C.I.A., is doing the messing. Either way, "Body of Lies" is more confusing than the George Clooney Oscar-winner, "Syriana, a better movie that is so mixed up that no one knows what the title means.

From a William Monahan ("The Departed") script based on the David Ignatius novel, "Body" has two intriguing characters and one annoying one. The former are C.I.A. supervisor Ed Hoffman (an overweight Russell

Crowe) and Jordanian Intelligence chief Hani (suave British actor Mark Strong). The irritating character is C.I.A. operative Roger Ferris (a grungy Leonardo DiCaprio). Devoted family man Hoffman dictates orders to in-the-field Ferris while eating breakfast cereal and taking his kids to school in Virginia. Hani wears

designer clothes and lives his playboy lifestyle as his enemies are "punished, not tortured." The top of his list of ethics is zero tolerance for lies.

Ferris races around often pretending to be an Arab (go figure), killing people and increasing Mid-East chaos. DiCaprio employs his tough-guy punk persona, which is starting to wear after "The Departed."

The three leads have one thing in common: They must catch or kill bin Laden-type terrorist mastermind Al- Saleem (Israeli actor Alon Aboutboul). The movie begins making some kind of sense when, about halfway through, Ferris hatches a scheme to weed out Al-Saleem by upgrading the threat capacity of a competitive fear organization and falsely publicizing a lowly member, architect Omar Sadiki (Ali Sulliman), as the new evil genius in town.

All goes well until Ferris believes that his Iranian nurse girlfriend, Aisha (Golshifteh Farahani), is kidnapped. He offers himself to Al-Saleem as barter, setting up the big DiCapro torture finale.

And, guess what? As in "The Departed," he has his fingers smashed. Clooney's fingers were also mangled in "Syriana." Can't Hollywood come up with some other appendage to mutilate?

"Body of Lies" is an okay spy film, though not as good as the early James Bonds.

Here's a thought. Let Scott direct a Bond film, where the super spy goes after bin Laden, himself. Someone should get the real master terrorist. Why not Bond? Too bad, he's a fictional character.

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