Director Paul Greengrass airlifts Jason Bourne to war-torn Baghdad in this Iraq-occupation thriller that casts Matt Damon as a crusading soldier uncovering evidence of lies and misdirection in the American war on terrorism. It’s a less successful companion piece to his almost unbearably tense United 93. Using the language of action movies to build a much larger-than-life experience, these two films build a post-9/11 cinematic mythology, a snapshot of a long moment in U.S. history that reframes debate in aggressively populist terms. United 93 is some kind of masterpiece, but the grander scope and general lack of nuance in Green Zone fuel some awfully stentorian, ham-handed moments that nearly sink the film.
As good as last year’s James Bond reboot was, The Bourne Ultimatum may provide an even better action-espionage fix. Where Daniel Craig’s Bond exuded a steely sex appeal, Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne seems to run on the same grim resolve that drives 24‘s lonely man, Jack Bauer. Deprived of a past and stripped of his present (Bourne’s only love interest was dispatched by an indifferent hit man in the previous film), there’s nothing for this CIA-tuned killing machine to do except try to find out who made him what he is. And, because his CIA bosses are hunting him down at the same time he’s looking for his own answers, the proceedings get brutal. Director Paul Greengrass (United 93) stages lively, intense action sequences, full of handheld camerawork and quick-cuts editing that would teeter on the edge of chaos if not for the tight coordination and choreography of each white-knuckle set piece–Bourne even boasts one of the most exciting martial-arts-style fight scenes ever concocted for an American film. (It’s a sign of the times when the new Matt Damon movie has better fight choreography than the new Jackie Chan.)