Body of Lies

While there is truth to the opening line from W. H. Auden that school children know evil done to one will be reciprocated, the poem ought to be balanced with the truth everyone knows about the schoolyard: bullies do not back down unless you put them on their back.Body of Lies opens with Ridley Scott (Alien, Bladerunner, Gladiator, Blackhawk Down) telling us what he thinks about the war in Iraq.  Russell Crowe’s character is made to say that people are tired of a “long war.”  Questions concerning our original involvement fester in that opening monologue.  I talked to the screen—normally “Oh brother!” or “C’mon!”—to register my displeasure.  Yet, apart from a few other lingering comments throughout the picture, I was genuinely surprised by the movie; surprised because there is an actual understanding that our self-proclaimed enemies in this world are radical Islamic jihadists!  Imagine!  Hollywood names, names!  Not unlike The Kingdom we are confronted with an enemy who, we are told, wants to “bleed us out.”  Realistic depictions of Muslim terrorists (not Russians or American anarchists!) take us around the world to show the reach of those who would do us harm.  There are those comments from our sworn enemies such as “Welcome to Guantanamo” and “The American crusade against Islam” we know are wrong; first, because of how well combatants at the U. S. Naval base detention center are treated,[1] and, second, because 19 upper-middle class Saudi Arabian terrorists attacked us on 9/11.  Political comments about Body of Lies are imperative because the film concerns American response to the Middle East since 2001.

We meet Ed (Russell Crowe), a deft, pragmatic C.I.A. manager of assets (including Leonardo DiCaprio) against Islamic terrorists.  No punches are pulled.  Dealing with a fluid situation and for which, at times, we have little understanding is surely true.  Knowing who is one’s adversary or friend may shift precipitously depending on what political position an individual may be in at the moment.  Foes do not wear uniforms.  We are reminded that enemies change tactics, adapt.  We match wits with devious, deceptive combatants.  Other nations, though of Muslim persuasion, sometimes help our interests, albeit, with much more patience in terms of time and much less patience in terms of physical abuse.  But make no mistake.  Viewing Body of Lies, the American viewer can rest, assured that there is a target and he will be taken down.

Trailers for the movie seemed to suggest another anti-American harangue, “The Great Satan” twisting justice.  This is not the case.  As a thriller should be, the action is strong, the motivations of its characters are murky, and its conclusion unknown.  Americans, The West in general, are viewed as attempting to preserve their way of life against violent invaders bent on our demise.  While I still await a John Wayne version of the Vietnam War (Green Berets) for the War on Terror, whether Ridley Scott intended to do so or not, at least Americans are given something to cheer.

Dr. Mark Eckel is Dean, School of Undergraduates Studies at Crossroads Bible College

[1] We are given to believe, for instance, that Leonardo DiCaprio’s character participated in the beating death of a prisoner which has not happened in Guantanamo.  Nor do prison guards smash fingers as does the Muslim mullah of the C.I.A. operative toward the end of the movie connected to the phrase “Welcome to Guantanamo.”

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