This debacle of an action-adventure proves that even teaming heavyweight actors like Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe with stylish, big-budget “Black Hawk Down” director Ridley Scott doesn’t pay off when William Monahan’s espionage screenplay, based on a David Ignatius novel, goes AWOL.
Roger Ferris (DiCaprio) is the Pentagon’s top spy in the Middle East. He speaks fluent Arabic and is such a personable fellow that even the most suspicious of our alleged allies seem to trust him. He’s an “operative” of Langley-based Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe), who tracks his every movement, via computer, and communicates constantly with him, using an always-reliable cell phone that never suffers the “out-of-range” frustrations of Sprint, AT&T or Verizon.
Ferris’s mission is to entrap the elusive jihadist leader Al-Saleem (Alon Aboutboul) — think Osama Bin Laden — who is masterminding seemingly random terrorist bombings. To do this, he must work with Jordan’s sophisticated Intelligence chief, Hani Salaam (Mark Strong), enlist a network of informers and invent a clever sting operation to smoke Al-Saleem out of his “safe house” hideout. There are huge explosions, of course, as black SUVs careen through Third World bazaars. There are even awesome, high-tech sky-track surveillance shots that show how the CIA can monitor anything, everywhere, even your backyard barbecue.
Problem is: nothing is emotionally convincing, even DiCaprio’s brief romantic involvement with the Iranian nurse (Golshifteh Farahani) who administers his weekly anti-rabies injections. Having sprouted a few mossy, unkempt whiskers to mask his still-baby face, DiCaprio flounders with the lack of subtext, while Crowe recites his lines by rote with a soft Southern drawl. Only Mark Strong’s performance is memorable.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Body of Lies” is a bloated, far-fetched 5, filled with two-and-a-half hours of meandering meaninglessness.