Miller (Damon) is a military officer charged with locating weapons of mass destruction, but every site he visits is a dead end. When he voices doubts about the intelligence, he gets in trouble with the Pentagon chief (Kinnear).
On the other hand, the CIA director (Gleeson) is sympathetic, and encourages him to dig around. So with the help of a local translator (Abdalla), Miller dives in. And he's quickly caught between two factions in his own government as he searches for an Iraqi general (Naor) in hiding.
Using irony and wit, Greengrass directs as if this was a detective thriller made up of a single action sequence. Ace editing by Christopher Rouse and Barry Ackroyd's superb cinematography keep us completely inside the action. And as a result the film feels completely enveloping. Yes, the camerawork is often shaky, but never to the point where we tire of it. And the sense of constant peril is almost overpowering as things get increasingly complex and messy. The film is packed with blood-chilling moments that cleverly highlight all kinds of fanaticism on each side.
Damon is of course perfect for this role, beefed up as the straight-arrow good guy who finds it impossible to believe that his leaders could be lying. We vividly experience Miller's uncertainty as well as the righteous anger that leads him into dangerous off-grid settings as he tries to make the best out of a bad situation. Around him, Kinnear and Gleeson are effectively solid and not quite trustworthy, while the excellent Ryan (as a journalist) is underused and the terrific Isaacs (as a black ops leader) steals scenes with sheer force of will.
But it's the film's themes that linger in the mind. U.S. military and political leaders charge in ready to do anything they can convince the American public to accept. And Greengrass offers telling glimpses of the Iraqi government in exile, never painting them as pure villains but refusing to let them off the hook either. When they say, "The Americans are trying to manufacture democracy here," they have a point, which is clearly echoed in recent headlines. And besides a revealing exploration of human nature, it's also an intricate look at the idea of defending freedom. And the arrogance of self-proclaimed liberators.
Run time: 115 mins
In Theaters: Friday 12th March 2010
Box Office USA: $33.1M
Box Office Worldwide: $94.9M
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Production compaines: Universal Pictures, Relativity Media, Antena 3 Films, Working Title Films, StudioCanal
Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 53%
Fresh: 96 Rotten: 85
IMDB: 6.9 / 10
Director: Paul Greengrass
Screenwriter: Brian Helgeland
Starring: Matt Damon as Roy Miller, Greg Kinnear as Clark Poundstone, Brendan Gleeson as Martin Brown, Amy Ryan as Lawrie Dayne, Jason Isaacs as Maj. Briggs, Khalid Abdalla as Freddy, Yigal Naor as General Al Rawi, Antoni Corone as Col. Lyons, Said Faraj as Seyyed Hamza, Michael O'Neill as Colonel Bethel, Jerry Della Salla as Wilkins, Faycal Attougui as Al Rawi Bodyguard, Aymen Hamdouchi as Ayad Hamza, Nicoye Banks as Perry, Sean Huze as Conway, Michael Dwyer as Met-D, Edouard H.R. Gluck as Met-D, Brian Siefkes as Met-D, Adam Wendling as Met-D, Abdul Henderson as Met-D, Paul Karsko as Met-D, Robert Miller as Met-D, Eugene Cherry as Met-D, Alexander Drum as Met-D, Brian VanRiper as Met-D, Matthew Knott as Met-D, Nathan Lewis as Met-D, John Roberson as Infantery Sergeant, Troy Brown as Soldier at WMD Site, Raad Rawi as Ahmed Zubaidi, Bijan Daneshmand as Zubaidi's Aide, Bryan Reents as Poundstone Aide, Michael Judge as JMOC Tech, Patrick St. Esprit as Military Intel 2 Star, Allen Vaught as Colonel Jonathan Vaught, Paul Rieckhoff as Gonzales, Martin McDougall as Brown's Aide, Antoni Corone as Colonel Lyons, Timothy Ahern as General at VTC, Ben Sliney as Bureaucrat at VTC, Whitley Bruner as Senior CIA Man at VTC, Khalid Abdalla as Freddy, Intishal Al Timimi as Hawkish Iraqi, Driss Roukhe as Tahir al-Malik, Muayad Ali as Quasim, Jamal Selmaoui as Hawkish Aide, Mohamed Kafi as Iraqi Officer, Kadhum Sabur as Mystery Man, Hillal Boubker as Qasim Aide, Soumaya Akaaboune as Sanaa, Thamou El Metouani as Seyyed's Housekeeper, Salah Eddine Elamari as Seyyed's Son, Naji El Jouhary as Seyyed's Son, Aroun Benchkaroun as Seyyed's Son, Hajar Machroune as Seyyed's Daughter, Scott Berendes as TF221s, Abdelkrim Assad as TF221s, Michael Diaz as TF221s, Tyler Christen as TF221s, Adam Mackey as TF221s, Ben Holland as TF221s, Jeffrey John Carisalez as TF221s, Jonathan Stone as TF221s, James Hodges as TF221s, Larry Lewis as TF221s, William Oakes as Camp Cropper Tech, Ziad Adwan as Translator, Ian Bendel as Camp Cropper Guards, Venie Joshua as Camp Cropper Guards, Miguel Berroa as Camp Cropper Guards, Peter Shayhorn as Camp Cropper Guards, Miguel Palaugalarza as Camp Cropper Wardens, Christopher Lilly as Camp Cropper Wardens, Sabir Ed-Dayab as Iraqi Prisoner, Omar Berdouni as Righteous Ali, Alex Moore as CIA Techs, Alistair Bailey as CIA Techs, Eric Loren as CIA Techs, Paul Cloutier as Special Forces Tech, Wallace Bagwell as Alpha Leader 1, William Meredith as CPA Presser, Tommy Campbell as Chopper Comms Commander, James Wills as Chopper Comms Tech, Jered Bezemek as Convoy Commander, Johnny Nilsson as Republican Palace Reporter, Salman Hassan as Zubaide Conference Speaker #1, Ammar Khdir as Zubaide Conference Speaker #2, Youssif Falah-Jassem as Zubaide Conference Speaker #3, Latif Al Anzi as Zubaide Conference Speaker #4
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