Body of Lies (2008) ***

Rated: R
Runtime: 2hr 8min
Director: Ridley Scott
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe
Genre: Drama
Language: English

Never Lie to Me

In a Nutshell


Straight as an Arrow

Sound Quality

Easy to Hear

Who's That?

Few Main Characters

Naughty Words


Naked people




“I need to know which side of the Cross you’re on,” CIA boss, Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe) explains to his man-on-the-ground, Roger Ferris (Leonardo diCaprio), who appears to be hanging back on some new gruesome task.  “I need nailers not hangers!”

It’s a vivid image to be sure, invoking the bloody Judeo-Christian history of religious strife, the take-no-prisoners ethics of Hoffman, anticipating the upcoming moral dilemma of Ferris.

It’s also a good warning to the movie audience: Make sure you have the stomach for what’s about to enfold!

With gritty newsreel-worthy action taking place onscreen in about 10 different locales in the Mideast, US and Europe, bodies lying everywhere, and everybody lying, Ferris, our hero, is in danger’s way every second while Hoffman, fat American stay-at-home dad, watches it all on satellite, zooming in to street level, barks orders on his cell phone, disposes of people, manipulate pieces in a war game that’s not a game at all, at the same time calmly escorting his kids to soccer practice.

People are dying left and right, and in another good visual, Hoffman stands untouched on a covered porch in Virginia, dry in his business suit, as torrential rain pours down all around him.  Ferris catches on a few times as he’s battered and bruised and beaten and sent back yet again into the murderous fray:  “Hoffman, you’re a million f—–g miles away!”

Ferris, we want to care about, but we wonder, he’s motivated by what exactly?  Who would want his job?  Does he maybe have thoughts of bringing peace to the Mideast?  Is it the money?  Or is it simply that he’s good at what he does – making fast thinking decisions about whether to off someone?  We’ll never know.  An unconvincing romantic story angle does little to help us out.

Hoffman, by contrast, is the man of no loyalties, no moral compunctions, no nuances.  Remember Kubrick’s Paths of Glory? – the guys at the top have little compassion for their foot soldiers. They’re just “troops,” or in this case, operatives, people on the ground, i.e. cannon fodder.

The acting is top notch.  In addition to diCaprio and Crowe, we have the dapper British actor, Mark Strong (a handsomer version of Ron Silver?), playing Hani Salaam, the head of Jordanian Intelligence, who wants to help his American allies but insists they play by his rules.  When he says, “Never lie to me,” the message is chilling.

The writing, if you listen to the words, is far superior to that commonly found in movie scripts.  Hoffman’s opening remarks about the inability of the technologically superior Westerners to win the battle against the terrorists and avoid the “global conflagration” he senses is coming is very astute and no doubt prescient.

Directed by Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner, Thelma & Louise, Gladiator), the camerawork is superb and the suspense is sustained throughout the cascade of violence that too much resembles actual events of the past decade.  You will sit on the edge of your seat, worried about the fate of Ferris unless you reach the point – as one of us did – that you don’t really care what happens!  There’s not a lot of sympathetic characters to relate to here (see motivation problems above), you shudder to think how accurate this portrayal of US involvement in the Mideast probably is, and hey, whatever happened to escapist entertainment?

Shelly Hanner, a retired government executive, is honored to be reviewing for this site, and wants everyone to know his teeth are his own. Janet Garber, a human resources executive and published author, has been living with Shelly's corny jokes for some time now, and her only escape is going to the movies!


Elie said on October 12, 2008


Wow that is a concise review, I am looking forward to seeing this film now.

Wayne D. said on October 13, 2008


Good review! As an action guy I might just like this movie. Although if their just killing off people just for the sake of killing off people to make the film gory is a turn off for me. You don’t have to do that to get your point across. I’ll have to just wait and see. Bottomline: This review makes me want to see the movie. So mission accomplished Janet & Shelly!

jimbo said on October 13, 2008


Good review but it makes me feel in spite of all the positives it’s probably not my type of movie.

B&B said on October 14, 2008


sounds like you got it right with the 3 stars - this one we will definately see. very tight review!

Marsha said on October 14, 2008


Thanks for letting me know in advance about the blood. I will miss this movie.

Brian said on December 2, 2012


Oh right! The Zep box set. I forgot about that post. It sholud have stuck in my memory better because LZ isn’t a band often chosen as a favorite by women (in my experience, anyway).I really need to go back and listen to them. LZ IV was hot right when I got into rock, but it was played SO MUCH on the radio and by friends that I got tired of it and pretty much tuned out the whole band after that, even though I know they are amazingly skilled musicians.At the moment, I’m going back to the rock scene prior to when I was old enough to get it . I recently bought Surrealistic Pillow and I am amazed by it. In fact, I like several of the obscure tracks more than Somebody To Love and White Rabbit.Also, as a Canadian I’m sure you’ll appreciate this: I’ve been listening to The Guess Who and really digging it!

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