Although its Mideast trappings have become terribly familiar in any number of recent movies from Syriana to The Kingdom to director Ridley Scott’s own Black Hawk Down William Monaghan’s (The Departed) tight script still has pertinent things to say about the lies and deceptions inherent in our covert operations in the region. Cloaked in a cat and mouse thriller format the story centers on Roger Ferris (DiCaprio)--a top CIA operative fluent in the Arab language-- who roams from country to country trying to penetrate top secret terrorist cells and uncover plans for mayhem. In trying to smoke out a shadowy terrorist who has been directing a series of key bombings against civilian targets in Europe Ferris comes up with the ingenious idea to create a phony rival group that appears to be taking credit for the “real” Al Qaeda-type organization’s business. Complicating matters for Ferris is his boss Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe) back at CIA headquarters who sees the world in black and white and believes there is no such thing as going too far to achieve goals in the best interest of the U.S. Both must also deal with the head of Jordanian Intelligence Hani Salaam (Mark Strong) who recognizes that each is useful for his own counter-terrorism efforts. There are a LOT of explosions that keep getting in the way of the dramatics--and much of the Crowe/DiCaprio teaming is played out on opposite sides of a phone line. But Body of Lies incorporates a first-rate cast including many local Middle Eastern performers who make strong impressions. Crowe--adopting some sort of quasi-southern accent (apparently from Arkansas)--creates an amusing CIA boss who sees the world from one perspective--his. Juxtaposing his duties to family as well as America Crowe creates a full blooded portrait of a husband father and CIA lifer who thinks he knows all the answers. His few scenes when he is face to face with co-star DiCaprio are worth the wait and both stars play off each other with ease. DiCaprio is back in Blood Diamond territory here as a rogue operative using his own ingenuity to make a difference. His on-screen command of some Arabic phrases is unforced and impressive and he earns the audience’s empathy particularly when he winds up in well over his head. There are also some nice scenes opposite a Muslim nurse he strikes up a relationship with while in the hospital. Iranian star Golshifteh Farahani is beautiful and nicely understated in these moments. Strong who also is very fine in another of the week’s new releases RocknRolla is suave and powerful as the shrewd Jordanian Crowe and DiCaprio cross swords with. Other regional actors fill out their roles with uncommon authenticity. There can be no question Ridley Scott is a master of the film medium. Body of Lies moves very well and thanks to the Scott style manual has lots of urgency. Employing his usual use of multiple cameras getting simultaneous angles in every scene Scott doesn’t rely on actors having to do a lot of takes and in the process manages to give the film a documentary kind of feel. Although the filmmaking approach sometimes leads to more confusion than we would like it also puts us right in the center of the action. And there’s plenty of that. Working for the fourth time with Crowe the two clearly have a rapport and similar seat-of-the-pants way of working which DiCaprio seems to have picked up nicely. If this isn’t as impressive an overall achievement as Black Hawk Down it’s still an entertainment that is a cut above some of the other recent spate of Middle East-set thrillers. Locations are well used too with Northern Africa and specifically the Moroccan environs filling in for the some dozen countries identified on the screen.
Top Story: Prosecutor Suggests Michael Jackson May Flee U.S.
The prosecutor in Michael Jackson's child molestation case opposes reducing the pop star's $3 million bail out of concern he might flee the country, The Associated Press reports. Santa Barbara County District Attorney Tom Sneddon's office said Jackson's wealth requires at least the current bail, arguing the singer might choose to live out his life as "a wealthy absconder" rather than face a life term in a California prison. According to the motion filed by Deputy District Attorney Gerald McC. Franklin, there is concern Jackson might flee to a country that doesn't have an extradition agreement with the United States. "Mr. Jackson is known and adored--'adored' is not too strong a word--in many of the countries of Europe, the Near East and Africa," the motion said. "The defendant here is 'Michael Jackson, international celebrity,' a man whose lifestyle to date would not have prepared him to adapt readily to a prison environment and routine, and whose physical stature will present its own problems for him in making the necessary adjustments." In addition to child molestation, a grand jury indicted Jackson with a conspiracy count that alleged child abduction, false imprisonment and extortion.
Posh Stands By Her Man
Former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham says in Marie Claire's July issue that she has faith in her husband, English soccer star David Beckham. "I know my David's never cheated on me," she said in the interview in response to allegations Beckham had affairs with his former personal assistant and a model. The Beckhams recently announced that Victoria--still known as Posh Spice to many fans of the 1990s girl band--and their two children would move to Spain to be with David, who left Manchester United to play for Real Madrid last year. She also denied rumors she stayed with David to make money from the 'Beckham brand.' "I couldn't live a lie and it would be unfair on our children," she said. "We are working on things together, but it is absolutely not a business arrangement."
Sean Combs Didn't Expect Tony Nod for Raisin
Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, who is currently starring in the Broadway revival of Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun, told Reuters in a recent telephone interview he isn't bothered being the only star in the production not to get a Tony Award nomination. "I didn't expect to get nominated. That was not my motivation. I'm very realistic as a person about life and how you have to pay your dues and about the level I'm at as an actor. I have my time for awards," Combs said, adding: "There's nothing that can compare to people laughing about you for something and then every night, standing room only." Initial ticket sales for A Raisin in the Sun broke the 1,078-seat Royale Theatre record and routinely sells out.
Combs Goes From B'way To Politics
In other "P. Diddy" news, Combs told the New York Post Sunday he hopes to question President Bush and likely Democratic nominee John Kerry on his new MTV show, tentatively titled Project Change. The 34-year-old hip-hop impresario told the paper he plans to scout the streets of Harlem, Brooklyn and Detroit for "real people" to ask the questions. "The people who usually ask the candidates questions are screened, and I'm going to use real people off the streets to get their questions out there," Combs told The Post. "I'm going to make Kerry and Bush squirm." His goal is to encourage a record number of young people and minorities to vote.
Helen Hunt Has Baby Girl
Mad About You star Helen Hunt gave birth to a daughter on May 13 in Beverly Hills, Calif., Reuters reports. The baby, named MaKena lei Gordon Carnahan, is the first child for Hunt and director Matthew Carnahan. The couple began dating in 2001. The 40-year-old actress and her baby are "doing very well," her publicist said Friday.
Kirk, Anne Douglas Renew Wedding Vows
Anne and Kirk Douglas renewed their wedding vows for the second time in 50 years Sunday before 300 guests in a traditional Jewish ceremony at the Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills, Calif., the AP reports. Guests included former First Lady Nancy Reagan, Merv Griffin, Dan Aykroyd, Lauren Bacall, Tony Curtis, Vidal Sassoon and Anjelica Huston. Family members included the Douglas' son Peter and Kirk Douglas' son, producer Joel Douglas, from his first marriage. Actors Eric and Michael Douglas were unable to attend. A publicist for Kirk Douglas said Michael Douglas was with his wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones, who is currently filming in Europe.
24 Whittles Cast for Upcoming Season
The Counter Terrorism Unit on Fox's drama 24 is getting its pink slip. Sources tell Reuters the actors who play Jack Bauer's (Kiefer Sutherland) CTU colleagues have been informed that their options as series regulars will not be picked up for the upcoming fall season. That includes Reiko Aylesworth and James Badge Dale, who play CTU members Michelle Dessler and Chase Edmunds. The two could return could return next season for guest appearances, along with Carlos Bernard, Zachary Quinto and Daniel Dae Kim, who played CTU members on a recurring basis. Elisha Cuthbert, who plays Jack's daughter and CTU analyst Kimberly Bauer, is expected to return next season.
Death Row Must Pay for Man's Injuries
Death Row Records was ordered to pay more than $162,000 to a man who said label owner Marion "Suge" Knight and his bodyguards attacked him at a recording studio in 2001, the AP reports. A Superior Court jury ruled that although Knight, who was not in the studio during the altercation, was not personally liable for the fight, Death Row Records was responsible for the actions of his security guards. Dwayne H. Baudy said he went to Con Am Studios in November of 2001 to meet an independent rap producer when he and a friend got into a confrontation with Death Row's security chief, Reginald Wright Jr. Wright said Baudy and his friend brandished guns after they were barred