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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Body of Lies

Body of Lies sounds like the title of my sister-in-law’s autobiography, so I was surprised to find out that it is really a movie about the CIA in the Middle East. I mean, I knew it starred Russell Crowe (American Gangster), but if you have ever seen my sister-in-law you’d understand it was a natural mistake. Fiona is what the rest of her family always referred to as a “handsome girl,” which means that she had a moustache and back hair by the time she was thirteen. She’s forty eight now and not so handsome anymore, but neither is poor Russell. What happened to our favorite Gladiator anyway? In Body of Lies he looks like he was glad he ate everything, though while Russell has gone to pot (roast) Fiona has reshaped herself into an entirely new woman, sort of like the bionic one but without the spark plugs. Fiona has created her own Body of Lies, with hair extensions and color, a forehead lift, eye lift, cheek implants, chin implants, restylne lip injections, breast implants, mole removals, tummy tuck, scar removals, liposuction, butt implants, calf implants, fake tanning and permanent make-up tattooing. She’s had so much pulled and stretched she now has to have her chin bikini waxed once a week, and that dimple in it… well; let’s leave that to your imagination. I’ll just say that if you are having a conversation with her and she spends a lot of time stroking her chin as if in deep thought, don’t be impressed. So anyway, she’s overhauled everything a person can, all of this in the name of “natural beauty”; now she looks twenty eight and is a total babe, personality jolted loose and brain-free enough to date Leonardo DiCaprio and aspire to a new life as a “Deal or No Deal” case carrier, but only if they give her a low enough number that she won’t forget it. Just don’t let her chew gum while she’s walking and she’ll do just fine, I’m sure.

Speaking of DiCaprio (The Departed), between breaks defiling my perfect husband’s baby sister with his python of passion, he found time to co-star with Crowe and film the real Body of Lies, a movie in which he plays covert CIA operative Roger Ferris, who is embedded in Jordan. Ferris’ mission is to gather information to track down the whereabouts of feared Islamic terrorist Al-Saleem (Alon Abutbul; Shiva), who heads up an organization responsible for civilian bombings throughout Europe as a promised prelude to a larger attack against the U.S. on American soil.

Because Ferris speaks fluent Arabic he lives among the people themselves rather than on a military compound, and he is better able to blend into the larger community around him. He takes his cues from his boss back at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, where Ed Hoffman (Crowe) keeps him on visual contact almost constantly via satellite, which is in its own way almost disturbing if not downright creepy. Hoffman’s eye in the sky can zoom down on Ferris to a level most us wouldn’t want an Olan Mills Portrait Studio photographer doing, and with Ed plugged in via cell phone giving him steady instructions, criticism, chatter, witless charm, and good ol’ boy Arkansan advice, is it any wonder Ferris is always barely one step ahead of death?

Still, Ferris is lucky enough to enlist the aid of the Chief of Jordanian Intelligence, the suave and yummy-on-a-stick Hani Salaam (Mark Strong; Babylon A.D.), who can strip search me and interrogate me as hard as he wants any time. The trick is whether he can be trusted, but, then again, can anybody in this thriller? No matter what contacts Ferris make, and how strongly he feels the relationships are, there is always a chance that the undercover links he cultivates will turn on him. I totally understand this. It’s a typically dating phenomenon that cuts across all cultures. You don’t give a man what he wants one time and he will throw you to the wolves, or, in this case, the terrorists.

The whole point of the movie ~ the
Body of Lies ~ if you will is that everybody is lying to everybody constantly. It is like visiting a used car dealers’ symposium on ‘Better Selling Techniques.’ Even when Ferris falls hard for a hottie nurse named Aisha (Golshifteh Farahani;
Santoori), he has to watch out for her bitter widowed sister Cala (Lubna Azabal; Strangers). By the way, just a note to all of you out there: when you are invited to an Iraqi widow refugee’s home for lunch, do yourself a favor and DON’T bring up the subject of the war. That goes over about as well as taking a piss in somebody’s Post Toasties in the morning.

This is the kind of movie for people who liked The Kingdom, Jarhead and Rendition. There is a lot of gunplay, violence, explosions as needed, a little torture thrown in for good measure, and a whole bunch of tension and distrust. In other words, it looks a lot like home movies of my first marriage but with better production values. The biggest downside I could see was in the unfortunate naming of Dicaprio’s character. Maybe novelist David Ignatius, who writes an column on International affairs and business for The Washington Post and has had five previous novels released but not produced as films, gave no thought to the possibility that this sixth book would make it to the big screen, but with a name like “Ferris” there are way too many moments in an otherwise almost entirely serious movie where Crowe’s character is left shouting into his earpiece “Ferris? Ferris?” to which at least one smartass in the audience is bound to respond “Bueller? Bueller?” As well they should. Hey, Ferris is a name that has been laminated in the memories of American culture and belongs to only one character and always will.

There is one tiny actual joke in Body of Lies that I’ll bet 99% of the audience won’t even notice and that is when Hoffman flies over to Jordan at one point to rendezvous with Ferris. When Ferris (DiCaprio) asks how his flight was, Hoffman (Crowe) smiles and says “I watched that Poseidon Adventure movie” a veiled reference to DiCaprio’s Titanic past, which Ferris responds to with a knowing nod when Hoffman asks if he’s ever heard of it. I’m glad to know the boys had at least a couple of chuckles during the making of what is otherwise a real hard-core look at espionage that will leave you shaken if not stirred.

1 comment:

movie fan said...

Apparently Ridley Scott enjoys working with Russell Crowe; and he likes to make movies that raise international awareness (i'm thinking Blackhawk Down and Kingdom of Heaven)... that's a good thing i'd say