Movie Review | Body Of Lies

Any movie that has Jordan as its stage has, by default, something interesting to offer me as a viewer. And if behind that movie sits Ridley Scott in the director’s chair, with Russell Crowe and Leonardo Dicaprio in front of the camera, well, suffice to say, this has to be one heck of a movie. Unfortunately, Body Of Lies wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be. I have been waiting eagerly for a movie that ended up disappointing me as it’s already disappointed others on the Jordanian blogosphere.

The movie is based on a book that tells the story of a CIA operative (played by DiCaprio) who travels to Amman where he attempts to befriend the head of Jordan’s General Intelligence Department (or Mukhabarat in the local tongue), in order to capture an important terrorist. In the process, he ends up falling in love with an Iranian girl (who lives in Jordan and speaks Arabic), and begins to slowly change his mind about the so-called war on terror he has so valiantly fought during his days in Iraq. Pulling the strings is Russell Crowe, who is DiCaprio’s jerk of a boss.

Modern day Jordan has never been portrayed in Hollywood on this magnitude so with such a story set up, and these players behind and in front of the camera, one would think it would be a sight to see.

First of all, it was shot in Morocco, and Jordan looks like Morocco about the same way that New Zealand looks like Arizona. Interestingly enough, Dubai, Scott’s first choice, refused to allow the filming due to its politically sensitive nature. Second of all, Dicaprio speaking Arabic is as recognizable to me as a monkey speaking Japanese.

Jordan is referenced in a pretty negative way, especially with the extensive referencing of the GID’s notorious torture tactics. Calling the country’s primary security apparatus as the “fingernail factory” wasn’t very flattering. However, these sorts of things are kind of expected from a Hollywood movie. My main concern was with the story itself. It really felt incomplete.

We see DiCaprio’s character beginning to get a good sense of the country, moving away from the traditional line of American thinking that we’re all terrorists (thinking that is personified by Crowe’s character) and starts to think outside the box on how to capture such an important terrorist. His plan is pretty interesting and made me think of some of the events that have happened in recent years and how the conspiracy theories don’t seem so far fetched after all.

By the end, we see something that was almost evident from the beginning: a Jordanian mukhabarat that is much better at what it does than the CIA, despite the reminder from Crowe’s character at the GID headquarters “who pays the bills around here?”

Nevertheless, the ending simply felt incomplete and too idealistic. I was half-waiting for some great twist, but the film left me hanging like M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Happening”.

In any case, the film left me wondering more about whether it’ll be shown in Jordanian cinemas. Or maybe – considering its timing with the release of another Human Rights Watch report on torture in the Kingdom – whether it’ll inspire some public debate on the issue.

The likely answer is no. But in the meantime, we are likely to see more and more Hollywood flicks based on the Middle East as the war on terror drags on. With that in mind, I have to admit I enjoyed “The Kingdom” more so than “Body of Lies”.



  • Throughout the movie I just kept thinking “that is sooo not Jordan, especially amman!” From the scenery to the people, it was pretty off….and I’ve never met an Iranian who was permanently settled in Jordan.

    Some of my favorite movies are Dicaprio movies, this definitely wasn’t his best…and I totally didn’t buy that ending.

  • I wanted to see this movie so much. On the day that I and my friends agreed to go watch the movie I had some urgent thing to do. It turned out, from what I heard from my friends, I was fortunate not to. Since, according to them watching the movie was a torture. I think rating the movie 3/5 is not that bad as I thought after all. Anyway, I found if you are not an American and you are eager to watch a movie that pleasantly presents your country better watch the Travel Channel don’t wait for a Hollywood movie to do that.
    Assom, back in the early 90s in the computer science department at Yarmouk University we had a slim tall and beautiful Iranian female TA. Better believe it because all the 240 plus Jordanian male students had a crush on her or even in love with her 🙂

  • Gotta love the old bait-and-switch when it comes to Middle Eastern cities in movies. Hollywood just figures that no sane American visits the Arab world anyway, so it’s easy enough to film in one city and call it another. Remember Raiders of the Lost Ark? They’re supposed to be in Cairo (“City of the Living”) at one point. It was Tunis. Anyone who has been to Cairo would see the difference immediately, even though the movie was set some 40 years earlier.

  • Going into the movie, I also had higher hopes. However, all in all, the movie was interesting, I didn’t find it as disappointing, yet again, I wasn’t expecting much out of Hollywood.

    and DiCaprio speaking arabic, I appreciate the effort, but seriously, eww!

  • “Jordan is referenced in a pretty negative way, especially with the extensive referencing of the GID’s notorious torture tactics.”

    Seriously, were GID’s notorious torture tactics a shock to you to know about?

  • I’m not even going to bother with “Body of Lies” – I tried watching the beginning, then got bored. You’re not the first person I know to say that it was even worse than “The Kingdom,” and “The Kingdom” felt like a total waste (aside from the “dial down the boobies” line, which is now part of my lexicon).

    I still believe in the great power of Ridley Scott (if only because I can watch “Blade Runner” over and over again), but the entire premise here appears stale and predictable. It’s kind of sad how a movie with actual promise can turn out to be so “meh.”

  • i’m american and i hate this movie i think we have more important things here,but i like iranian actress (golshifte) she done well her job

  • Dicaprio’s Arabic was reasonable. The scene where he tried to pass himself off as an Arab (the safehouse) was ridiculous, but I’m not sure that it’s reasonable to have expected fluent Arabic.

  • It seems Jordan’s security institutions are destroying the country’s reputation and image abroad. We keep lying to ourselves and convincing ourselves that our regime is a moderate regime. 20 years ago this might have been the case when our neighbors were far more repressive and the 3rd world was dominated by ruthless dictators. this is no longer the case. so not only are we lagging in education and development in general today, we are well behind most 3rd world countries except sub Saharan Africa in freedoms. to make matters worse, we are now competing with Belarus and Burma over the title of most repressive and most corrupt regime. even our benefactors the Americans can no longer find it in their heart to cut us some slack. Hollywood is how America caricatures reality. Body of Lies is sadly how America’s cultural elite see Jordan. Sometimes I think Arab governments are far more dangerous to the Arabs than any force inside or outside the Arab world. It’s time to accept that Jordan is not on the right track.

  • well salam u are arab but u’r not jordanian and if u where jordanian you whould had fath in jordan and in our system !!

  • I lived in Amman in the late 70’s and had forgotten about the “fingernail factory”. It was funny to hear that again. This did lend some authenticity to the film, but as others have said they could have done better.

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