It’s not surprising that this film didn’t do as well as it could have done, although it is a shame – it is an intelligent action thriller, exactly the sort of thing to give the genre a good name and provide a thought-provoking yet simultaneously exciting film, something of which there aren’t enough, let alone this good. I think that the marketing didn’t help – pushing the idea of Matt Damon in an action role set in the current day with the director of the Bourne sequels didn’t do the film any favours.
Damon is Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (based on a real-life version) who is leading a team looking for weapons of mass distraction in Iraq; the locations turn up empty and he questions the intelligence, something that is dismissed except by a CIA officer (Brendan Gleeson) based in the Middle East, who tells him that the next place on his list will be empty because it was searched two months ago. Meanwhile, Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear) is a politico trying to line up the next democracy in Iraq with a former Iraqi politician, while toeing the line on the veracity of the intelligence, who also gets involved with Miller. There is also a reporter (Amy Ryan) to represent the entirety of the fourth estate and its complicity in the second Iraq war, giving another side to the point of view as to what is occurring in Iraq. Things turn when Miller captures a henchman of one of the high-ranking soldiers in Hussein’s army, only for Special Forces to descend (led by Jason Isaacs, wearing a fabulous moustache, and upping the Harry Potter Factor of this film to 2) and remove him immediately, leading Miller to do some digging to find out what is going on around him.
The film is very much about what Greengrass feels was wrong with this war and the people who made the decisions, and so the audience has to pay attention to what is going on and have some idea of the details of the time. However, it is not just people talking – it’s also an exciting action film, particularly the final act of the movie, as the film climaxes explosively. There is perhaps too much of a feeling of resolution to the film, which feels a little strange for a story that is trying to represent a complicated real-life situation and also confusing the boundaries between a documentary and a fictional film (even though it is ‘inspired’ by a non-fiction book about the events). However, it doesn’t detract from a film that is well directed, well acted, smart and exciting.