I found myself asking one simple question during Ridley Scott's Body of Lies, a well-shot, big-name intelligence thriller that sees Leonardo DiCaprio's CIA man caught up in action in the Middle East -- namely, what is Body of Lies for? I don't mean that in the sense of asking what it supports or believes in -- although, with the film's mix of Hollywood heroics and sneering cynicism, you're certainly left with that question -- but rather in the sense of asking what it is that Body of Lies means to accomplish or communicate. Part of the film feels like an attempt at a sprawling, globe-trotting story of realpolitik and moral complexity, in the mold of Syriana or Scott's own Black Hawk Down; other parts feel like Dolby-pumped slam-bang action, in the mold of Tony Scott's Spy Game or the Bourne Films. And some of Body of Lies feels like a weird, surreal workplace satire, with DiCaprio's on-the-ground intelligence agent fighting, fussing and feuding with his D.C.-based superior Russell Crowe; if you hate having your boss hover over your shoulder second-guessing you, imagine how it feels to have your boss looking over your shoulder second-guessing you from orbit via satellite.
Adapted from David Ignatius' novel by The Departed screenwriter William Monahan, Body of Lies follows DiCaprio's Roger Ferris through a series of run-and-gun intelligence-gathering missions that start in Iraq and travel the globe in the name of penetrating, and breaking, a terror ring operating on a global level. Ferris works for Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe, beefy and drawling), who runs his section of the CIA with a true believer's fervor. Speaking to a group of political staff and elected officials, Hoffman tries to get everyone in line by getting everyone scared: "Our world as we know it is much simpler... to put to an end than you might think." Ed knows that in an age of asymmetrical warfare, America's seemingly unsophisticated opponents have big advantages; you can't tap someone's phone if they don't have one, can't crack their e-mail if it doesn't exist.