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dir Paul Greengrass
scr Brian Helgeland
prd Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lloyd Levin
with Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Brendan Gleeson, Amy Ryan, Jason Isaacs, Khalid Abdalla, Igal Naor, Said Faraj, Raad Rawi, Michael O'Neill, Nicoye Banks, Sean Huze
release UK/US 12.Mar.10
10/UK Universal 1h55
Off the grid: Isaacs and Damon
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Based on Rajiv Chandrasekaran's true account Imperial Life in the Emerald City, this film never pauses for breath throughout a story set in the weeks following the 2003 invasion of Baghdad. It's provocative, involving and utterly gripping.
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.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2010 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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