Middle East muddle

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

It's hard to tell much about the plot of Ridley Scott's Body of Lies from the commercials, beyond an apparent conflict between costars Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe. There's a reason for that; behind the explosions and the bankable names is a film about the U.S. intelligence community's work against terrorism in the Middle East.

So far the war on terror has been keeping moviegoers away in droves, and Scott's depiction of it can be highly frustrating. But the helpless feeling of watching our boys in the CIA screw up is what sets this film apart from and above most of its predecessors.

DiCaprio is Roger Ferris, a new-school operative in the middle of the action, tracking a terrorist operation led by an elusive, Bin Laden-like figure promising attacks across the globe. He's connected by earpiece to Crowe's Ed Hoffman, a Langley-based old-schooler who casually gives Ferris counterintuitive orders while seeing his kids off to school.

Soon, the operation seems doomed by Hoffman's meddling into Ferris' work on the ground, but eventually it's clear that both men are out of their element, which bodes badly for more than just the two of them.

Scott doesn't punctuate the plot's intricacies as strongly as he could, but Crowe and DiCaprio excel at representing clashing, common views of the Middle East and the animosity that ensues. Yet while they're butting heads, Mark Strong, as the CIA's shifty but charismatic ally in Jordan, manages to command his every scene.

--Melissa Starker