With the prospect of Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass doing a third 'Bourne' film together looking unlikely, 'Green Zone' is the next best thing. And anyone who had their fingernails pared down to the quick watching the duo's previous spectaculars will have the same experience here. There aren't any epic car chases, but wait until you see the one with the helicopter...
Set four weeks after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in spring 2003, 'Green Zone' follows Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Damon), an American who arrives at a crossroads in the ruined city and must decide whether to follow orders or his conscience.
Miller and his men are searching for Weapons of Mass Destruction in the Iraqi capital, using information seemingly passed on to the US authorities by a high-ranking informant. Every location, of course, yields only frustration and Miller's suspicions about the reliability of the intelligence grow stronger with each dud mission.
When Miller raises his concerns, his superiors move to shut him up, but not before he has attracted the attention of Martin Brown (Gleeson, in a very Gene Hackmanesque role), a CIA expert on the Middle East who thinks the US' approach to democracy in Iraq is useless without the help of the country's in-hiding generals.
Brown wants Miller to pass on any information he thinks may be of interest, and when the soldier encounters an Iraqi (Abdalla) who says he's seen where some of the top brass are meeting, it sets off a chain of events which puts Miller and his men in the eye of a storm of lies and in even greater danger - from all sides.
While some will think that parts of 'Green Zone's ending are too nicely shaped and the idea of a career military man going so far "off the reservation" is far-fetched, Greengrass asks plenty of tough questions and gives you plenty to think about during and after the on-screen chaos.
Working with many of his creative team from the 'Bourne' films and military and media veterans of Iraq, the English director uses his background as a documentary maker in war zones to bring Baghdad to the big screen. The production design and locations are stunning; the powder keg atmosphere is brilliantly recreated and the exchanges of gunfire and verbals make the film work as both an action movie and conspiracy thriller where the race against time leaves viewers increasingly breathless.
It's hard to see any other film delivering the same adrenaline rush this year.