Body of Lies is both a secret service spy-type thriller and a startlingly real and relevant punch in the face from Ridley Scott.
Secret service spy-type wise, you have Leonardo DiCaprio running around the Far East, hiding under baseball caps, chasing after people while shouting down a phone, with uber-technology backing him up in the form of big-ass satellites tracking his every move and a Brains-esque techie who sits in his weird house and types random shit into computers to make them do clever stuff.
Punch in the face wise, you have suicide bombers, fundamentalist arse-holes spreading the hatred, fat American officials making decisions that disregard various human lives, and violence that is brutally realistic. Take all your Saw-shite-tripe and shove it in the bin, because the only way to truly rattle an audience with torture is to avoid gore-exploitation but just show the stark reality of such practices. Oh, and use a hammer.
This is a bumper film spanning just over two hours (but feeling a little like four) and taking you to unexpected and, in cases like the hammer, unwelcome places too. DiCaprio is of course excellent, bearded up and freakily sporting brown eyes instead of blue. He melds the action (running, fighting, shouting) with the drama, the poor chap having many and various injury makeup sessions throughout the course of his adventures. Taking on the role of fat American official is Russell Crowe, and even when literally the majority of his scenes are spent on the phone, his intelligent but morally flawed Ed Hoffman is a great character, the harsh grey to DiCaprio’s softer brown, the comedy interlude if you like. Well, until you realise people like him are probably in similar positions in real life, making similarly dodgy decisions. And then that punch in the face happens again.
But for all the points gained in a great cast, thrilling set pieces and some definite brain fodder to chew on, Body of Lies slumps slightly because at times it seems to last for ever. New characters are introduced late and new relationships forged three quarters of the way through, leaving you with no clue of the plot’s direction or upcoming end point. Perhaps that is a good thing in a way, and applause to Ridley Scott for crafting such an elegantly long piece of work. But unfortunately when the bottom-seat-shuffle starts to happen, the CF points start to fall.
However, the points had plenty of room to fall, as for the majority of its running time this film is riveting, either in plot, character, or lip bitingly real moments of terror. DiCaprio and Crowe are backed up by a super-cool Mark Strong (Rocknrolla), and with a cast like that and a deftly capable man behind the camera, you canny go wrong. This is an action thriller with a brain. A message piece that doesn’t ram it in your face, or cast too many lob-sided views. It’s relevant, entertaining. A bit like if the news was presented as a drama, but with some nice bits in between to lighten it up now and then. Body of Lies gets a solid CF2, missing a higher mark only for dragging its heels a teeny bit too long. Go see it. Take a cushion. And don’t play with hammers.