It is amazing to me that directors and well-known ones like Ridley Scott (Thelma & Louise, Black Hawk Down) continue to try and make films about the Middle East. Present day events are always a little tricky to put up on screen. Making political films are akin to walking in a mine field. What is going on there is too difficult to pin down in a mere 2 hours and most of the films end up being too confusing (Syriana) or too scattered – like this one.
The CIA is searching for the leader of terrorist bombings that have been happening all over. Roger Ferris (Leonardo Di Caprio – Revolutionary Road, Gangs of New York) is the CIA man on the ground and he is being supervised by Ed Harris (Russell Crowe – Beautiful Minds, Gladiator). Ferris moves from Jordan to Turkey to Dubai to try to keep ahead of the ever changing realities. He is watched at all times by a satellite eye in the sky which keeps Harris informed of what is going on. Harris tries to strategize from thousands of miles away. For him results, no matter how they are obtained, are the only acceptable outcome.
Ferris's search for Al-Saleem (Alon Abutbul – Munich) is made all that much more difficult with Harris making decisions and deals behind his back. Trying to keep ahead of things, Ferris makes a tenuous friendship with the head of Jordanian Intelligence, Hani Salaam (Mark Strong – RocknRolla, Fever Pitch).
Scott tries his best with this film and trying to keep a rein on it along with the subject matter. He gets strong performances from his two leads as you would expect from them. Scott keeps in the intelligence side of the story and does not allow the action side to take over. The plot is confusing at times and you really have to keep track of who's who or your brain will tied up in knots. There are layers to the film and then sub-layers.
What is strong about the film is that it realizes that there are many sides to this conflict and tries to give screen time to all of them. There are good guys and bad guys on all sides. The fact that Ridley Scott is against the American war in the Middle East comes out loud and clear. But he is not necessarily against war.
While the story and premise behind it is a little sketchy the execution is top notch. And while the film is not perfect we really should not expect it to be as it is a work of fiction. We should just appreciate it for what it is – an attempt to entertain us.
-Deconstructing Body of Lies
-Deleted scenes and alternate ending