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Friday, November 07, 2008

Body of Lies

Body of Lies is a must watch film, for all fans of director Ridley Scott, and for all fans of Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe (Thinking, everytime: 'What next?'), and for all Kolkatans - Kolkata is given a miss by many of the superlative films from Hollywood - this is one of the rare & pleasant exceptions for the cine-buffs of Kolkata!

Body of Lies is a thriller based on the novel of the same name by David Ignatius about a CIA operative who goes to Jordan to track a high-ranking terrorist. The film is written by William Monahan, and stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe, Iranian actress Golshifte Farahani and Australian actor Vince Colosimo. Production took place in Washington D.C. and Morocco. Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe have had an amazing partnership, with such great films as 'Gladiator', 'American Gangster' and 'A Good Year' between them. However, Crowe reportedly agreed to do the supporting role in this film after the script was revised by Steve Zaillian. Significant contributions to this intense narrative has been made by Alexander Witt, the Director of Cinematography, and by Marc Streitenfeld, who has scored the original music for the film.

Detailed plot synopsis
(Alert - Do not read it if u want to steer clear of the spoilers!):
Roger Ferris (DiCaprio) is a CIA operative in Iraq who is trying to track down a terrorist by the name of Al Salim. Upon following up a lead, Ferris' asset (who he has become good friends with) is killed during a car chase involving terrorists, RPGs and two missile-firing U.S. helicopters. Ferris recovers from his injuries at a U.S. facility in Qatar before he is sent to Jordan to run down some intelligence he recovered in Iraq. Meanwhile, unknown terrorists plan to follow up an offscreen series of bus bombings in Sheffield, UK with more attacks in Manchester, England but blow themselves up when the police find their cell. Later, another cell undertakes a cell phone-triggered bombing in a Dutch flower market that kills at least 75 people.
Ferris' handler, Ed Hoffman (Crowe), keeps tabs on Ferris via Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. Towards the start of the movie, Hoffman speaks to his CIA superiors. He explains to them how terrorists are turning their back on technology by throwing away their phones and computers and using old methods of communicating face-to-face and with written messages. Because of this, the terrorists are very hard to track.
In Jordan, Ferris tosses the ineffectual Chief of Station out of his office before he meets Hani Salaam (Mark Strong), head of the Jordanian General Intelligence Department, or GID who tells Ferris to never lie to him. Hoffman finds an Al Salim safehouse in Jordan and tells Ferris to conduct a surveillance operation on it. However, Hoffman organises another operative to conduct an operation without Ferris' consent. The other agent screws the operation up and blows his cover after saying something compromising to a terrorist from the safehouse. The terrorist takes off running, intent on relaying information that the safehouse is being watched. Ferris chases him down and kills him by stabbing him, getting bitten by dogs in the process. Hani covers up the killing by passing it off as a robbery and Ferris accuses Hoffman of running "side operations", telling Hoffman to lay off.
Ferris meanwhile goes to hospital to tend to his wounds.

While in the hospital he meets a nurse named Aisha, and he gradually falls in love with her. Hani recognises one of the men living in the safehouse as a man he had known for years named Karami and He takes him out into the desert and coerces him into working for Jordanian intelligence (he has been sending money to Karami's mother and making it appear as if it came from her reformed and successful son, so she doesn't know Karami is still a thief and now a wannabe terrorist, and he is shamed and surprised when Hani does not kill him but lets him ride away on his bicycle). Hoffman asks Hani to hand Karami over to the CIA, most likely to interrogate him but Hani refuses, having earlier told Ferris he does not believe in torture. Unknown to Ferris and Hani, Hoffman tells Ferris' CIA subordinate to follow Karami and kidnap him. Karami gets away and notifies the terrorists in the safehouse that it is being watched, resulting in the safehouse being lit on fire and abandoned. Ferris' partner is caught and Hani blames Ferris for the destruction of the safehouse before telling Ferris to leave Jordan.

Ferris comes back to the States for a while and argues with Hoffman, whom he derides as power-hungry and fat. He then comes up with a plan to make contact with the terrorist Al Salim (Alon Aboutboul) by staging a significant terrorist attack, the logic being that Al Salim will hear about this attack and try to make contact with the terrorist group who committed it. With the help of one of Hoffman's CIA friends, Ferris is able to frame a Jordanian architect named Omar Sadiki by posing as a financier contracting a bank's construction in the UAE, making him look like the head of a terrorist cell.
A "terrorist attack" is staged at a US Military Base in Incirlik, Turkey. A bomb is exploded in the base and Ferris uses unclaimed local bodies dressed as soldiers to legitimise the attack. Al Salim sees the report of the attack on television and tries to make contact with Sadiki.
Hani tells Ferris to come back to Jordan because he knows that he needs Ferris. Hani then talks to Ferris about his suspicions that Omar Sadiki is a terrorist to which Ferris lies and says he doesn't know anything. Ferris later tries to save Sadiki from being kidnapped by Al Salim's henchmen but fails and sees another CIA agent nearly killed in the subsequent car crash. Salim gets information from Sadiki about Ferris, realising that Sadiki is not a terrorist at all, and then kills him. Ferris goes back to his apartment and finds out that Aisha has been kidnapped. He then desperately asks Hani for his help, explaining to Hani that he made up Omar Sadiki's terrorist cell and the attack was faked but Hani refuses to help Ferris because he lied to him.
Ferris gets a call from the kidnappers and is told to wait for a van. The van picks him up and drops him in the desert. Meanwhile back in CIA headquarters, Hoffman is watching everything via an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. Ferris is then picked up by a group of men in cars and the vehicles create a massive cloud of dust before splitting up. Hoffman attempts to follow Ferris but loses track of which van he is in.

Ferris is taken to Al Salim, just across the border in Syria. When Ferris asks Al Salim about Aisha, Salim tells Ferris that someone has lied to him and he has been doublecrossed. While Ferris insults Salim and laughs in his face, an angry Salim crushes two of his fingers with a hammer before turning on a video camera and ordering Ferris to be cut loose. He is to be executed on video in a manner similar to other cases in Iraq. Just before Ferris is executed, Hani and his men burst into the room, killing all of the terrorists and arresting Al Salim.
While in hospital, Ferris is visited by Hani who reveals to him that it was his men who kidnapped Aisha, using blood she donated regularly at work to make it appear she'd been killed or wounded. He then brokered a deal with Al Salim (using Karami) to trade CIA agent Ferris for money. It was one of Hani's men who rang Ferris and dropped him in the desert. The plan was to wait for Al Salim's men to pick Ferris up and then follow them to Al Salim's location, where they could then arrest Salim. The plan played out successfully, even though Ferris was nearly killed, and Hani tells him that Aisha is absolutely fine.
In the end Ferris tells Hoffman that he quits the CIA. Hoffman prepares to leave Jordan and resigns himself to Ferris not changing his mind. At the movie's end, Ferris preapres to make contact anew with Aisha. The culture clash that is evidently in the purview interestingly never becomes a blown-up issue in the nuanced moments between Ferris and Aisha, and that espouses hope for their relationship, at least we viewers can hope so.

Courtesy: Wikipedia, Warner Bros.


Aryan said...

Thanks a lot for reviewing my favorite film!

I really liked it.

A little sad to think that something like the events that unfold in the movie exists in the world today.

Visually enticing, great acting, no boring moments, fairly decent twist, worth seeing in the theatre.

arpita sharma said...

With all the junk out there today it's refreshing to not be able to figure out the plot before the small popcorn is gone. Sometimes a longer movie is better, more time to develope characters and plots, BODY OF LIES is a case in point. Two exceptional actors like Crowe & Leo further lifted the expierence. A top-notch spy-thriller, awesome experience for viewers, especially if seen in the theaters!

mehul said...

The brilliant characterisation of Ed Hoffman & Roger Ferris in the movie has to a great extent been achieved by David Ignatius' novel. The handling of two big stars like Russell Crowe & Leonardo DiCaprio has been deftly managed by Ridley Scott nonetheless.
The crisply photographed and edited Body of Lies does offer some food for thought, but it works mainly because it is a pure piece of entertainment, a smartly updated old-fashioned espionage thriller.