“This is the reason we went to war!”
Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass team up again this action/drama set during the beginning of the Iraqi War. Set in 2003, Damon stars as U.S. Army chief warrant officer Roy Miller. He and his squad, played by real Iraq veterans, encounter several unique scenarios. The ‘fiction based on facts’ screenplay, written by Brian Helgeland, is inspired by the non-fiction book Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, former Washington Post Baghdad bureau chief.
The content and drama are there. It was basically up to the filmmakers to produce a visual account of these wartime events that audiences will watch. Special performances and locations highlight this well-made film.
The fast-paced screenplay does not spend enough time developing each character. These characters contain common clichés and archetypes, but their unpredictable paths sustain a high interest plot. The actors make their roles credible by delivering smart dialogue and creating realistic physical personas without well-developed character traits. This approach provides a common aura of collective behavior where audiences follow each character’s reasoning behind each action.
Amy Ryan co-stars as a Wall Street Journal reporter; Greg Kinnear plays State Department operative Clark Poundstone; and Brendan Gleeson plays a CIA operative. Damon and the other principle actors do their part, but the acting highlights come from Khalid Abdalla, as Freddy, and an almost unrecognizable Jason Isaacs as Briggs. These two amazing actors achieve memorable character performances respectively as a civilian who becomes quickly involved with Miller’s squad and a talented military veteran who works closely with Poundstone. Isaacs also achieves a more authentic U.S. accent than Gleeson, who occasionally slips into his native Irish voice. Divisions among sides eventually blur as the plot centers on Iraqi general Al Rawi (a.k.a. The Jack of Clubs), well played by Igal Naor.
The authentic-looking environment obviously involved some special effects work, but it is amazingly well blended and executed. Every scene looks realistic, giving audiences an unprecedented view of Iraq during this major war. The filmmaking talents include a high quality crew, among them recent Academy Award-nominated cinematographer Barry Ackroyd.
This film puts realism and purpose behind the actions where each battle ultimately reflects ideology, not body counts. As with United 93, Greengrass has a knack for historical reenactments. These passionate actors and filmmakers provide helpful explanations throughout this very personal account of well-known events. The time span between 2003 and now also provides filmmakers some room to ramp up the action. They do not have to be too sensitive about upsetting the audience. This recommended 115-minute film is rated R for violence and language.