Briefly Noted: Bureaucratic Lies on Celluloid


Not since the 1970s has an A-list Hollywood director specialized in conspiracy thrillers to the degree that Paul Greengrass does. With the Bourne series, he built taut action thrillers around a slick and cruel state security bureaucracy that is as careless about the truth as it is callous about life. 

In Green Zone, he has shifted from the seedy side of fictional espionage to the even seedier business of real-world wartime intelligence—specifically, the faulty reports that Saddam Hussein held large stocks of weapons of mass destruction. The milieu may have changed, but the subject remains the same: the lies the government tells to justify state-sponsored violence. 

Those lies usually come from cool, conniving government managers whose job is to cover up the state's dirty deeds. Bland-looking guys in ties may not seem all that threatening, but Greengrass understands the power of a secretive national security state. In his cinematic universe, bureaucrats make the best villains. —Peter Suderman