The ad campaign for Green Zone seems to be pitching it as “Bourne without the Bourne,” but this new thriller, set in modern war-torn Iraq, is plenty different from Matt Damon‘s bread and butter action franchise, despite being helmed by Paul Greengrass, who directed two of them. The psychological drama of identity at the heart of Jason Bourne has been externalized in Green Zone – it’s not the protagonist we can’t trust, it’s the facts.
Matt Damon plays US Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller, one of the men on the ground in post-invasion Iraq tasked with hunting down the weapons of mass destruction that were the Bush administration’s excuse for toppling Saddam Hussein. There’s only one problem: they’re not there. Of course, with 2010’s hindsight, we know they were never there, but as Miller follows one bad lead after another, it’s impossible not to share his frustration. And when he rebels against his orders, we quickly get a peek behind the curtain at the machinations of power behind the scenes. What could have been a complex brain-bender like Syriana remains remarkably quickly-paced thanks to clever direction by Greengrass, who has become an expert at efficiently communicating to an audience without ever seeming didactic. Green Zone is both a slam-bang thriller and a remarkable assessment of our failures in Iraq, and I completely recommend it.