Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio Have Come a Long Way

Those images will not go unnoticed by the public, at least on the Internet, where debate is brewing over whether Scott's portrait of a CIA detached from realities in the field will be a Hollywood polemic on the war.

Whether moviegoers care is another question. They have largely ignored films broaching conflict in the Middle East. "The Kingdom," "In the Valley of Elah" and "Saving Grace" were box-office duds.

That hasn't deterred Scott from some overtly political imagery. In one torture scene, an Islamic terrorist tells his captor "Welcome to Guantanamo." In another, Crowe's character warns that when a nation is occupied, resistance only grows stronger over time.

Scott concedes the movie is political. But he says he is simply trying to reflect the realities of the conflict.

And the film hardly offers a monolithic view of the USA or Mideast nations. Strong's character is a Jordanian intelligence officer who at times is more sympathetic than Crowe's — and a better ally to DiCaprio's agent.

"Usually the most challenging things you can say are also the most accurate," Scott says.

For all of DiCaprio's research into the role and Crowe's bluster, both are loath to discuss any message of the film.

"We're not telling people what to think," DiCaprio says. "If we're guilty of anything, it's in telling people to think."

DiCaprio says that if Hollywood has been remiss in any aspect of political films, it's in not sparking the industry's target audience to become politically active — in any direction.

"I'd just like to see young people respond in some way," he says. "About 40% of young people who are registered to vote actually did in 2004. About 70% of older people did. If you can get young people to have their generation represented, then you're doing something."

Crowe grins at the brief sermon. "I knew he was a good bloke early on," he says. "Even if he doesn't know when you're pulling a joke on him."

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