Body of Lies keeps viewers on the edge |

Body of Lies keeps viewers on the edge

Courtesy of Warner Bros.Russell Crowe as Ed Hoffman and Leonardo DiCaprio as Roger Ferris in Warner Bros. Pictures' suspense thriller "Body of Lies."
François Duhamel |

Director Ridley Scott is at the top of his game in this adaptation of a David Ignatius novel. Keeping the story’s many locales straight can be daunting, but viewers are rewarded with a sense of the moves and countermoves necessary to navigate a maze of competing intelligence gathering agendas. Arid, starkly beautiful landscapes are contrasted with diehard gamesmanship and conflicts that include gunplay and explosions.

Though sweeping in scope, the story pulls off its plot twists with precision. The film’s mantra could be “in the intelligence game, trust no one, including those you work with.” Top CIA operative, Roger Ferris (DiCaprio), is stationed in the Middle East while his handler, CIA strategist, Ed Hoffman, works from the comfort of his well-appointed home.

Though rooting out Al Qaeda leadership is the pair’s stated agenda, Hoffman is more concerned with remaining atop the Middle East’s intelligence hierarchy, evident after Ferris makes the fateful decision to work with the head of Jordanian Intelligence (Mark Strong). The resulting three-way power struggle produces shifting shapes and unpredictable results. This total immersion espionage thriller requires both the viewer’s surrender and his/her rapt attention.

The story of one man taking on the big automakers showcases the triumph of American can-do spirit, but more importantly, provides perspective on a court system that favors corporations. Kearns’s foray into business is equal parts tragedy and triumph that leaves his family, friends, and unctuous attorney (Alan Alda) puzzled. A professor of engineering and family man of the 1960s, Kearns designs an intermittent windshield wiper sought by the big-three automakers. Kearns’s major investor (Dermot Mulroney), arranges a demonstration for Ford during which Kearns hands over his prototype. Ford backs away from a deal with Kearns after copying his technology.

The legal wrangling is fascinating even in this abbreviated form. However the film insists that we understand the devastation to Kearns personally and squanders its momentum. Producer Marc Abraham makes his directorial debut, choosing to emphasize Kearns’s noble battle while omitting a number of relevant facts. Though movies aren’t famous for “telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,” in this case, a little more truth would have been a lot more instructive.

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