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‘Body of Lies’ deserves a swift burial

From “The Kingdom” to “Traitor,” movies about terrorism rehash the same tired trope while failing to say anything new or provocative. Add “Body of Lies” to this heap of snoozeburgers.

A terror cell of Islamic jihadists, featuring at least one baby-faced insurgent ready to become a suicide bomber. The blazing Middle Eastern sun shining through a window into a smoky, dingy apartment. A market square full of innocent civilians running in a panic in all directions after the surprise explosion of a car bomb. A room full of U.S. soldiers looking at images from a spy satellite on a wall full of screens.

In just a few years, these images have become hopelessly trite, popping up as they do in every single movie about the post-9/11 world. From “The Kingdom” to “Traitor” to “Rendition” and on and on, movies about terrorism rehash the same tired trope while failing to say anything new or provocative about the current state of U.S. foreign policy.

Add “Body of Lies” to this heap of snoozeburgers. If you thought that director Ridley Scott, working with actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe and screenwriter William Monahan (“The Departed”), was going to break the Hollywood Goes to Iraq curse with his latest, get ready for disappointment — the Hollywood Surge still isn’t working.

DiCaprio stars as Roger Ferris, a CIA agent who does all the pesky ground work of intelligence in the Middle East while his boss Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe) pontificates in Washington and meddles with Ferris’ delicate negotiations. Hoffman’s boorish interference mucks up Ferris’ operations in Iraq before completely ruining a Jordanian operation spying on a terrorist safehouse.

You’d feel sorrier for Ferris, but he loves his job too much to tell Hoffman to shove it, so we see his best-laid plans collapse over and over again. Eventually, the two work together on a gambit that’s the one smart idea “Body of Lies” has to offer — in order to draw out the elusive and vain Al-Saleem (Alon Abutbul), Ferris and Hoffman take an innocent Jordanian architect and use internet chatter and phony bank transactions to make him look like the hot new jihadist on the block. After the CIA guys create a fake bombing on an American base in Turkey — the “casualties” are all corpses from the morgue dressed as U.S. soldiers — Al-Saleem seeks out the architect, allowing the Americans to track him down.

But, of course, things don’t go as smoothly as planned. You guessed it — Hoffman messes up Ferris’ perfect plan. If this were a chick flick, Ferris’ friends would come over for a makeover, they’d sing a Motown song into hairbrushes, and they’d convince him that Hoffman is nothing but bad news. But since this is a shouting-guys-in-sunglasses movie, no one learns unless someone’s delivering the death-blow.

DiCaprio is never particularly convincing as a hard-bitten espionage veteran with a broken marriage; his North Carolina accent has all the stability of a provisional government, and Ferris’ tacked-on romance with an Iranian nurse (Golshifteh Farahani) never convinces. Crowe, for his part, fares better with the accent, but his role mainly amounts to giving bad orders via cell phone. The only performer who ever connects is Mark Strong, as the slick and continental chief of Jordanian security. (Strong also steals scenes in this week’s “RocknRolla.”)

“Body of Lies” seems eager to impugn U.S. policy in the Middle East, but it wants to have it both ways: There are noble, intelligent Ferrises out there, but they’re constantly being overrun by the blustering Hoffmans, so the solution is… what, exactly? The movie ultimately has no idea, thus making it even more of a metaphor for the current state of the world than it ever intended.