Matt Damon has either the best taste in Hollywood, or the best agent.
There are no fewer than three pedigree Damon movies due in the next few months: one directed by Steven Soderbergh, one by Clint Eastwood, and one by Paul Greengrass. Green Zone – the Greengrass one – is supposedly based on Rajiv Chandrasekaran's Imperial Life in the Emerald City, a non-fiction tome about the occupation of Iraq. But if Greengrass used Imperial Life... for anything more than background research, then he and I must have been reading different books.
Chandrasekaran, Baghdad bureau chief for The Washington Post after the war, describes the Coalition's litany of failures in almost satirical detail: the hiring of high-level bureaucrats based not on their expertise but on their political loyalties; the reform of Iraq's financial institutions before even power and water were properly restored; the privatisation of everything.
In Green Zone, Damon plays Roy Miller – not a character from the book, but a fictional soldier caught up in a CIA conspiracy during the futile search for WMDs. Gunfights, car chases and hefty explosions ensue. Sound familiar? This is not the meticulous reconstructionism of Greengrass's United 93. It's Bourne again, but in Baghdad. "The Bourne Occupation", if you will.
Watch the trailer yourself (tinyurl.com/yfk4a7r). Hired assassins? Check. Pinstriped character actors poring over satellite imagery? Check. Damon knocking heads on the ground? Check. One CIA operative telling another CIA operative that they have NO IDEA what they're dealing with? Check. A table-turning phone call to the baddie? Check. In this case, Greg Kinnear is in the villain's suit and specs, standing in for David Strathairn; Brendan Gleeson is the sympathetic spy, standing in for Joan Allen. Roy Miller, meanwhile, seems like a proto-Bourne, pre-brainwashing. Yes, fanboys – he's David Webb.
Anticipation courses through me like caffeine. Green Zone is going to be brilliant, riveting and responsible stuff. And I'll probably pay to see it at least twice, like I did the Bourne movies. But while Imperial Life... had no single overarching narrative, it was filled with telling instances of incompetence, futility and fraud, many of which could make gripping films in their own right, without any need for blowing up helicopters. Was transplanting the tropes of a fictional action hero into the world of a non-fiction book the only way to show the real failures of the coalition? I hope there are more films to be squeezed from the stories in Chandrasekaran's book – and that Damon and Greengrass might decide to make them.
When you're looking for somewhere to live, it consumes your attention to the exclusion of pretty much anything else besides trailers for Matt Damon movies. So for the past fortnight I've spent almost every spare moment trawling property websites. I'm now well-versed in the language of the East End estate agent (for instance: "massive", as in "a massive dump"; or "spectacular", as in "dragging you all the way out to zone five to view this property is going to be a spectacular waste of your time and mine"). Thanks to my breathtaking ignorance of the home rental process – turns out you're supposed to give notice on the place you live in after you've found the place you're going to live in – there's a distinct possibility that the name of this column will come to conjure an image not of me sitting on my couch in front of the telly, MacBook on my lap, synching my smartphone and generally ingesting media from every possible angle; but of me and my sleeping bag occupying the couch of one of my more tolerant friends, while most of the rest of my stuff resides in a corrugated iron storage facility in Whitechapel. I'll probably hang on to the laptop and the smartphone, mind you. How else am I going to find a new flat?