Movies about the Iraq war have, unsurprisingly, been box office poison. It was a war that was still going on when most of the films were released and one that most people knew was about oil and not about ‘freedom’ (come to think about it, it probably was about American ‘freedom’ to secure oil supplies). Most of the films have been about this mendacity; foremost amongst them for me is In the Valley of Elah (2007). So well done to the producers for getting these expensive productions mounted even after it was clear that punters didn’t want to know what really happened; I hope they weren’t burned too badly.
Paul Greengrass has directed two of the best political films of recent times, Bloody Sunday (2002) and United 93 (2006), and while Green Zone isn’t in their class, it’s still a very effective representation of disastrous American policy in the aftermath of the invasion in 2003. It concerns the search for ‘weapons of mass destruction’ (WMD) which most knew, despite not being given any intelligence, did not exist. As Fair Game makes clear, it’s highly likely that the American government knew they did not exist but had to magick them into existence in order to justify going to war.
Credit to Matt Damon for starring in another film, after Syriana (2005), that questions American policy in the ‘Middle East’. He carries the film well, as a professional soldier who wants to do a proper job. I wonder how accessible, without knowledge of the war, the script is. It rattles along at pace and neophytes might be forgiven for being confused.
The same might be true for Fair Game, based on the true story of the CIA agent outed by the White House for political reasons. If Green Zone tells the truth via fictional characters, Fair Game features real life characters who were hung out to dry by the Bush administration for telling the truth. Again it should be emphasised how important it is for stars, such as Naomi Watts and Sean Penn in this film, to make liberal films that will help write the history of the time. And the history recited here is shameful; as the postscript states that although the man who revealed Valerie Plame’s (Watts) identity, Scooter Libby, was convicted he was immediately pardoned by President Bush.
In a key scene Joe Wilson (Penn), husband of Plame, tells an audience of young people that it is their responsibility to know what is going on and to challenge the abuse of power. Maybe in the era of the ‘occupied’ movements young people will engage in politics more and disconnect themselves from their smart phones long enough to realise that they must engage in a fight for their future. They cannot rely upon the older generation as we allowed the mess to brew in the first place.
This is a convincing insider’s account of how intelligence services work and how vulnerable they are, through careerists who only want to get up the greasy pole, to government manipulation.