The Oscar nominated British director Paul Greengrass seems drawn to "issue" movies. His feature directorial debut was the disease-of-the-week movie The Theory of Flight (1998), and he found acclaim with the explosive Bloody Sunday (2002) and the gripping, grueling United 93 (2006), though none of those exactly resulted in a bonanza of ticket sales. He seemed to come closer to his true calling with the second two Bourne films, The Bourne Supremacy (2004) and The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), bringing his gift for tense action as well as uncommon intelligence to a pair of summer action films. If there were any "issues" in those movies, they were buried deep in the kinetic plots.

Now we find Greengrass at a crossroads. Clearly the issue movies bring more glory and more personal satisfaction, but the action movies bring in happier customers and more riches. It's a conundrum many artists have faced since the days of Sullivan's Travels (1941), when a comedy filmmaker hit the road to make a film about the "real America." But Greengrass has asked an interesting question: why not do both at once? The answer to that question is Green Zone. Loosely based on a nonfiction book by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, it's a fictionalized thriller with fictionalized characters, taking place in a realistic setting. (Greengrass credits the 2006 book with helping him jump-start a project he had begun working on in 2004.)