Body of Lies: Unabashedly Unpatriotic

Iraq. I’m sick of it. You’re tired of it. In the new espionage thriller Body of Lies, Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe are sick and tired of it, and our whole country is fed up with “the moment of silence at the ball games,” as Crowe says in the role of the head of the Middle East branch of the CIA.

Body of Lies by director Ridley Scott pays audiences the compliment of delivering consistently intelligent fare, often about real (or at least real-ish) figures. He dares to get across a palpable sense of Iraq fatigue. Which is another way of saying that Scott practically invites the audience to go see the talking Chihuahua picture instead.

The movie does better in atmosphere than it does in the mechanics of its action scenes, which range from improbable to extremely improbable. DiCaprio, wearing a deeply suspicious chin beard meant to make him look like an Arab, plays Ferris, a spy posted in Iraq on the trail of an inflammatory cleric, Al Saleem, who is promising much mayhem. Barking orders at him from Langley is Crowe’s Hoffman, a chunky, chuckling Southerner in a brush cut who waddles around his kids’ soccer games ordering Ferris into increasingly hairy situations, sometimes without telling Ferris exactly what’s going on.

The effort to make Crowe and DiCaprio equally important figures doesn’t really work; Crowe is effectively a mere voice on the phone and we don’t really even need to lay eyes on his character, who keeps flying in to meet with Ferris for superfluous personal sitdowns.