Or more accurately titled Jason Bourne Goes To Baghdad. The director and star of the Bourne movies – Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon – team up this time for a war thriller set in the chaotic initial days and weeks after Iraq was invaded by America and the US ‘secured’ the country and the capital, Baghdad.
Damon plays Warrant Officer Roy Miller, a somewhat idealistic soldier tasked with hunting down the elusive WMD who begins to question the veracity of the intelligence they’re acting upon as he repeatedly comes up empty-handed. Big ol’ Brendan Gleeson is skeptical CIA officer Martin Brown who joins forces with Damon in a bid to find out what the story is behind the lack of WMD. Greg Kinnear is Clark Poundstone, a slick Pentagon official and puppetmaster who knows more than he lets on, while Amy Ryan (who played officer Beadie Russel in HBO’s The Wire) plays Wall Street Journal reporter Lawrie Dayne, who has been covering the WMD story since before the invasion.
Fans of the Bourne movies will be happy to know that Greengrass’s ultra-kinetic style, complete with (un)steady-cam shots of all the action, is here in full effect. Personally I find that while this busy camera work certainly gives you a visceral sense of action, sometimes I also like being able to see just what the hell is actually going on. Picky I know, but the action is nevertheless as gripping and intense as a trip down the motorway with a New York cab driver in the rain. At night.
The movie is tightly paced, and the cinematography beautifully evokes the Iraqi capital, despite being filmed exclusively on location in Spain, Morocco and the UK (you’d swear it was filmed entirely in Baghdad). Basically it’s one big beautifully shot, urban warfare chase scene.
This is a scenario ripe with story-telling potential, but the film struggles to create real suspense given that we already know that there are no WMD to be found. It’s also a cop out that left unsaid is the fact that Iraq’s WMD were actually purchased from the United States government during the Iran / Iraq war of the 80’s. The US government and then-envoy Donald Rumsfeld in particular, must have known almost exactly what WMD Iraq had – a fact that may have added a bit more to the political intrigue of Green Zone. While striving to ground itself in realism, this movie doesn’t really bring anything new to the table like the Bourne movies have; certainly no new information, and ultimately it feels like it would have been a lot more powerful if it went somewhere more unexpected – or if it had come out five or six years earlier. A competent but slightly underwhelming thriller.