starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe, Mark Strong, Golshifteh Farahani
screenplay by William Monahan, based on the novel by David Ignatius
directed by Ridley Scott
by Walter Chaw Perfectly workmanlike, unimpeachably prestige-y, achingly contemporary, and a near-complete failure as revelation, Ridley Scott's Body of Lies tells the tale of modern spook-dom complete with spy satellites, cell-phone eavesdropping, torture, and terrorists. A compelling stew, one would think, yet something that a decade ago would be seen as science-fiction and as recently as a few years ago as satire today offers no surprises--no discernible sharp edges, smooth as a river stone worn down by a few fast years of crippling cynicism. So the United States is a fingernail factory skating on the razored edge of impossible technologies and still, because of two-minutes-ago wisdom and dusty bureaucrats, unable to exterminate subjects and achieve minimal objectives in our ideological war. The film advises that we trust no one, that the issues are complex, that our enemies aren't stupid, and that there will always be a super-suave Sharif-ian Arab in pictures like this lest we forget how much we're capable of getting behind the Disneyfied Aladdin portrait of the Near East when push comes to shove. It reminds that Russell Crowe can get fat with the best of them even if, after The Insider, no one was wondering--and it reminds that Leonardo DiCaprio is pretty good at this intense young man shtick (although no one was wondering that, either). The problem with Body of Lies isn't its craft (indeed, it's one of the most handsomely-mounted, professionally-executed pictures of the year)--the problem is that it's got nothing to say in a media-rich environment awash with pundits, alive with YouTube, and actually awake for all the sleepiness in our mid-section. The irony of Body of Lies is that it's about intelligence but its own is at least a few months behind the curve.