Body of Lies a Body of Lies

October 13, 2008

bodyoflies.jpgOn Sunday I sat in a movie theatre  in Texas and watched Russell Crowe, Leonardo Di Caprio and others in the recently released movie “Body of Lies”. There was something in the experience that came full circle  – or rather I should say there were a number of interesting threads that came together that afternoon. Body of Lies plays out in Iraq and in Amman, Jordan. Exactly 12 months ago I was in Amman standing outside a theatre about to go in and watch Jason Bourne run rings around his CIA mentors. And tormentors. I was approached and engaged in conversation with a very friendly group of young men who were Jordanian students in Texas and were home seeing family during a school break. The audience in Amman cheered and whistled the good guys winning. Here in Texas there was silence as we watched Russell and Leo do their thing though the good guys were not doing so well. However American laughter and support was expressed most often for the subtlety displayed by the Jordanian intelligence (or was he security? – the movie was confused) chief.

I was disappointed that the compelling thread of the novel on which the movie is based – the clever positioning of a “dead body” to dislocate the enemy, modelled after a successful, real world British operation in World War 2 – was abandoned for an alternative and more cliched espionage plot. Which in my view only confused the story. So too Ridley Scott’s obsession with technology and guns and other exotic weapons, all of which is anathema to successful espionage. Regrettably the moments of HUMINT promise, such as the (menacing yet subtle) Jordanian counter-recruitment of an Al Quieda worker bee by bringing his mother into the equation, were subsumed by Hollywood’s obsession with hi-tech gadgetry, fuel enhanced explosions, and weapons. Advice for Ridley – if you want to do half decent espionage, even in topical places like the Middle East (which is also a theme wearing a bit thin) then have a hard look at The Russia House!  Le Carre is hard to go past, though he might just be too cerebral for a CSI numbed  generation who have everything nauseatingly spelled out for them by the Director.


2 Responses to “Body of Lies a Body of Lies”

  1. movie fan on October 18th, 2008 13:25

    Apparently Ridley Scott enjoys working with Russell Crowe; and he likes to make movies that raise international awareness (i’m thinking Blackhawk Down and Kingdom of Heaven)… that’s a good thing i’d say

  2. PickledEel on October 18th, 2008 13:45

    Anything that raises international awareness, and especially the role the US can and does play on the international stage can only be a good thing – I wholeheartedly agree.

    (When I worked in Washington I was appalled at the lack of awareness of junior policy makers who could not locate on a map countries in Latin America – yet they were providing political-military strategic advice on these places! It was worse for the Middle East analysts). True story. Any movie that raises awareness of places and issues but especially shows the moral dilemmas confronting decision makers as they deal with various issues.

    But then we get into the issues of seeing the world through the Hollywood prism – politics and political history are all too often compromised for the sake of the story. Often it is not how Hollywood portrays the issues but the film-going-public that accepts the Hollywood version as gospel.

    A good (parallel) example is often cited by my law enforcement friends, frustrated by what they call the “CSI Factor” – technologies and methods that rapidly solve a puzzle just don’t exist as they are shown through the media. But try and convince the public that is the case when police are taking their methodical time with a case!

Got something to say?