“Body of Lies” – Susan Granger Reviews

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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.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.