Even with a billion dollar following after a couple of BOURNE pics, Matt Damon & helmer Paul Greengrass couldn’t get much traction on this behind-the-shock-&-awe Iraqi war story. Too bad, since it’s not only an important story, but a fascinating & entertaining one about how the information on those never-to-be-found Weapons of Mass Destruction was knowingly manipulated by the infernal Echo-Chamber that made up the George W. Bush administration. The dramatic trick in the script has the deceit uncovered by the same military team leader who’s working off of the ‘cooked’ info on the chaotic streets of Baghdad. He’s both the brains and the brawn, which helps keep the complex plot tightly focused, (saves time, too). But you need someone like Damon, a ‘thinking man’s’ action hero who can drop the irony & play it straight, to make this work. The rest of the cast is just as good (kudos to Khalid Abdalla as the reluctant translator) and the physical production is convincing. Yet, the film doesn’t quite come off. Partly, it’s from the ending, too pat, and from Damon’s character, too much the plaster saint, but it’s mostly the Greengrass shake, rattle & roll camera technique. In the abstract puzzle of a BOURNE ‘Spy vs Spy’ conundrum, it works wonders, but with Iraq’s real life confusion & moral dilemmas, clarity trumps generic excitement.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: As a truth-seeking CIA type, Irish-born Brendan Gleeson pulls off a damn fine Mid-Western accent. Close your eyes when he talks and you may (just) hear his presumed role model, Gene Hackman. BTW, Khalid Abdalla was born in Scotland. So, extra kudos to him on his Iraqi accent.