Is Body of Lies Based on a True Story?

Ridley Scott’s ‘Body of Lies’ is a spy film that follows Roger Ferris, a CIA officer in Iraq, who is in a quest to bring down the terrorist leader Al-Saleem. Guided by his superior Ed Hoffman and helped by Jordan Intelligence head Hani Salaam, Ferris tries to track and capture Al-Saleem, while facing varied setbacks during the operations. As the thriller film progresses, the narrative opens a doorway to the gritty operations of the intelligence officials against the ferocious terrorist groups of the 21st century, making one curious whether the expeditions of Ferris are real. If you are wondering the same, we have got you covered!

Is Body of Lies a True Story?

No, ‘Body of Lies’ is not based on a true story. The screenplay of William Monahan is based on the eponymous novel written by David Ignatius. In the larger premise of the War on Terror, the novel and the book depict the dilemma of the protagonist Roger Ferris, who is conflicted between his own understanding of the war and the involvement of his superiors who make him proceed with operations that question his perceptions. In the mold of a thriller, the fictitious narrative offers a look at the dynamics pertaining to the intelligence operations in the Middle East post 9/11.

“Intrinsically, an organization like the CIA relies on secrecy. It is about covert operations, so we [the crew] are doing a movie about modern-day CIA operations and practices. I think we got as close as we could get to how the US operates in this war on terror,” Leonardo DiCaprio, who portrays Roger Ferris, said to Guardian in November 2008.

“You have this character [Roger Ferris] that is in a deceitful world, trying to catch the enemy that he could never trust. But it is a dirty, ugly war. He’s trying to hold on to a semblance of morality and a belief in his country while his country is letting him down, and ironically he’s starting to trust people who are – while not exactly the enemy – not the people he’s beholden to,” DiCaprio added while explaining the foundations of his character and the narrative.

Even though the narrative of the film and the novel is entirely fictional, reality and real-life personas have inspired the creation of the characters. The character Hani Salaam is seemingly/partly based on Sa’ad Khair, a Jordanian intelligence official, who also served as the head of Jordan intelligence agency, General Intelligence Directorate, from 2000 to 2005. Khair was a prominent figure in the intelligence and espionage circle of the Middle East in the early 2000s.

David Ignatius, the author of the novel, met Khair in person to listen to his accounts to model the character of Hani Pasha in the novel. Along with Sa’ad Khair, Britain’s Operation Mincemeat during World War II has also inspired the novel partially. Even while the premise of Middle East politics sets the stage for the narrative, the film is conceived first and foremost as an espionage thriller.

“Yes, the Middle East is a hotbed of political unrest and has been for hundreds of years. But that’s not the reason we [Ridley Scott and Donald De Line] were attracted to it. What attracted us is that it’s a taut, provocative spy thriller with elements that certainly appeal to me as a producer and Ridley as a filmmaker. You are in a world where a character’s job is deception, when your life and your job are about deception. What’s fascinating is how that bleeds into other areas of your life,” Donald De Line, co-producer of the film, told the New York Times.

As a thriller, ‘Body of Lies’ does stand as an engrossing achievement, exploring the depths of its characters and the conundrums they face in the larger picture of modern espionage while paying homage to classic thrillers like ‘Three Days of the Condor.’

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