Set in Iraq in the months following the 2003 invasion, the film reunites the director and star of ‘The Bourne Supremacy’ and ‘The Bourne Ultimatum’, Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon; this time, however, we already know the details of the underhanded government action our hero confronts. Damon plays an army warrant officer whose WMD sorties keep coming up empty; unwilling to roll over, he’s soon embroiled in a turf war between the CIA and the Pentagon (personified by conscientious Brendan Gleeson and oleaginous Greg Kinnear) while attempting to wrangle a Ba’athist general (Igal Naor), a useful veteran (Said Faraj) and a useless embedded reporter (Amy Ryan) against a backdrop of more-or-less real events.
Greengrass’s approach to real-life disaster is far more simplified and pumped up here than it was in ‘United 93’ or ‘Bloody Sunday’, but there’s much to be said for his ‘Bourne in Baghdad’ approach. The action is robust, the politics simplified but strident, insisting that a wilfully under-prepped war worked against both US and Iraqi interests. By shifting focus from the naively doctrinaire civilians of Chandrasekaran’s book to street-level soldiers questioning authority, Greengrass concocts a formula with a fighting chance of dispelling the Curse of the Hollywood Iraq Movie. If a picture as conventionally accessible as ‘Green Zone’ tanks, that campaign is surely lost.