CIA agent Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio) has a task that is as important as it is difficult: As an anti-terror specialist, he is supposed to track down the wanted head of a terrorist network in Jordan. For this purpose, he relies on locals to get the necessary information. But working with an informant ends in disaster. So Ferris is forced to turn him off so that his own cover isn’t blown. And the next steps don’t go according to plan either. His own boss Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe) has no intention of following up on the leads he has found, which is why the agent has to act on his own for better or worse and sets off on the search together with Bassam (Oscar Isaac). The greatest danger is yet to come…
Fight against terror
In an increasingly complex world, it is not always easy to draw the line between good and evil. This also poses problems for filmmakers. Establish nations as enemies? That is no longer an option. But whatever works, they are terrorists. You can always agree on those. The Man Who Never Lived is one of those films that ultimately revolves entirely around an attempt to use the fight against terrorism as a backdrop for an exciting story. In some cases the thriller is quite successful, as there are always scenes that actually put a strain on your nerves. But not everything is convincing.
It all starts off very promisingly. When Ferris shoots an informant in cold blood to protect himself, the film shows an ambivalence worth seeing. It is once again the case that the terrorists are Arabs and only the West can stop them. At least the Americans are not glorified too much as pure do-gooders who act out of pure goodness. Unfortunately, The Man Who Never Lived doesn’t stay that way until the end. This leads to an ultimately unnecessary romance with the nurse Aisha (Golshifteh Farahani), in which our protagonist is still allowed to show a softer side. Obviously it still makes a difference whether you sacrifice a man or a beautiful woman. Political circumstances may change, but the need for a damsel in distress obviously does not.
Solid, but nothing special
But the adaptation of the novel of the same name by David Ignatius is not a great success in terms of content. If the film were released today, some would probably speculate that the script was written using artificial intelligence. There are a lot of clichés in there; no attempt was made to really tell something of one’s own. Of course, when watching a film about espionage and secret activities, you can always ask yourself who is betraying whom and whether things aren’t really different. The Man Who Never Lived offers this, playing with uncertainty and the promise of surprises. In the end, not much happens at all. At least there’s nothing there that needs to be remembered more.
The film was disappointing at the box office, and today few people still talk about it. This is a bit surprising given the concentrated star power, be it in front of or behind the camera. Director Ridley Scott was able to rely on various well-known faces. In part, these are also an argument for watching the thriller. At least DiCaprio is there with a lot of effort. Crowe, on the other hand, was rather wasted, his role as a mentor who handles drones from a distance is rather uninteresting, even if there is some good dialogue between the two characters. If you’re in the mood for this kind of film, go with Body of Lies, although there’s nothing really wrong with it. But there are more interesting genre entries than this one.
“Body of Lies” is ultimately a fairly interchangeable spy thriller about the fight against terror. Every now and then it’s worth seeing, if only because of the prominent cast. But there are reasons why the thriller has been forgotten.