The Best Iraq Film To date, 18 March 2010
Author: gary-444 from United Kingdom
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A tremendous Iraq thriller with a brave and contemporary storyline. It is a story, and not a history. Yet it does skilfully blend a number of important political and historical themes into a fiction. Director Paul Greengrass delivers the tale superbly, Matt Damon shines as the soldier who learns too much. Brendan “In Bruges” Gleeson is marvellous in a supporting role as a CIA officer. When Baghdad is “secured”, the hunt for WMD’s start, and as that search proves consistently fruitless, questions start to be asked, and it is Damon who is the literal and figurative means for asking them.
The plot revels in upsetting conventional stereotypes. The Americans are the good guys AND the bad guys. The Iraqis are simply trying to survive. And the press are neither good nor bad, just innocent dupes. Baghdad is convincingly portrayed as an anarchic hell-hole, the soldiers as decent men simply trying to do the job. However the Politicians fare less well.
It remains a mystery as to why America, a country which has been the economic and technological powerhouse of the world for a century, is so hopeless at Diplomacy and Foreign Affairs. The backdrop of an Administration which went to war with little appreciation of the country it was dealing with, and no appreciation of what to do once the war was over, is witheringly parodied . A puppet Iraqi leader who “less than ten Iraqis had ever heard of” is installed, and the American administrative presence is headed by a cynical functionary with no sympathy for the country at all “and a handful of Washington interns”. The brutality of the American Military, replacing the brutality of Saddam makes for unsettling viewing.
Unsurprisingly, with Greengrass at the helm the action sequences are dynamic, realistic, and authentic. The hand held camera work is used effectively, unlike in the “Hurt Locker” where it is used because nothing else interesting is going on. Damon, as Chief Warrant Officer Miller, has to perform a role in mechanical plot terms which requires suspension of disbelief to great length, and for War Film purists, this will rankle. It is true that his freedom of action, movement and access bears no relation to the day to day reality of that role in real life. But hey, it’s a story, and a good one.
I doubt that this film will play well to an American audience which is neither particularly bothered about Iraq, or is bothered about finding out much about it anyway. It’s natural constituency is the more sophisticated British and European markets. But it is to the enormous credit of both Universal that they made this, and Matt Damon that he fronted it. It took a long while before America was prepared for verite stories about Vietnam, and subsequently it is those that are remembered. No doubt that same cycle will have to be lived for Iraq too.