On 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.
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