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Green Zone (2010) **1/2

March 12, 2010

Written by: Brian Helgeland

Produced by: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner and Lloyd Levin

Directed by: Paul Greengrass

Rated R for violence and language

115 min.

U.S. Release Date: March 12, 2010

After teaming up to make the second and third installments of the Jason Bourne trilogy, Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass get back together for the new wartime thriller “Green Zone”.  Though the trailer is eerily similar to what might look like a “Bourne 4” film, “Green Zone” has some differences to offer from its international spy thriller look-alike.  After the three-year layover from working together, can the duo connect to make a solid non-Bourne film?

Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller of the U.S. Army (Damon) is an über-loyalist soldier who prides himself on following orders and executing his assignments.  Placed in Iraq shortly after the “shock and awe” campaign, Miller is tasked with infiltrating known terrorist facilities in the area to find weapons of mass destruction (WMD).  Shortly after his arrival in Iraq, Miller begins to sense that there is something fishy about the missions he and his men are being sent on.  Every place they are directed toward seems to be a bad lead, as there are no signs of WMDs.  Thanks to some tips from CIA agent Martin Brown (Brendan Gleeson), Miller’s fears find validity, and it becomes clear that the U.S. soldiers are being given bogus intelligence as to the whereabouts of WMDs.

Meanwhile, despite being frustrated by the lack of WMDs in Iraq (after having promised findings to the American people), the “Coalition Provisional Authority” meets in the “green zone”, led by Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear), to discuss the implications of this problem.  They do not want to throw their own country’s leaders under the bus, so they order the forces to remain searching for the WMDs.

Enter bushy-tailed Wall Street Journal writer Lawrie Dayne (Amy Ryan).  Dayne has gotten very close to this developing story, and is beginning to make connections to where the bogus military intelligence is coming from.  When Dayne and Officer Miller meet and discuss this development, Miller becomes determined to get to the bottom of this conspiracy.

There are some things I really like about “Green Zone”, and other aspects that I am not a big fan of.  The pairing of the film’s setting and subject matter along with Greengrass’s raw handheld visual style is a good match.  The cinematography isn’t quite at “The Hurt Locker” level, but there is a feeling of “embeddedness” that “Green Zone” is able to bring to the viewer that many war films have not in the past.

Matt Damon’s performance is somewhat believable as the loyal but frustrated Army Officer.  One thing that works for me is the way Paul Greengrass mixes professional actors and amateurs in most of his films.  In this case, Damon’s performance and authenticity of his character are elevated because he is surrounded by retired Army veterans playing members of his team.

One of the main things that rubbed me the wrong way about “Green Zone” was the fact that Greengrass attempts to communicate his views on the “war on terror” with this single isolated story.  Everyone is familiar with the media story that unfolded surrounding the hunt for WMDs between 2002 and 2004.  However, almost none of us were in Iraq at the time, and therefore can’t pretend to know the truth.  This film bases itself in reality fails to develop as such.  The story could have told an interesting tale of the confusion that the soldiers felt when they became a part of a presumably unnecessary war and a massive government conspiracy to cover up this mistake.  Instead, Helgeland’s script tells a “man vs. the system” story that could not be further from reality.  The plausibility of Damon’s character “going rogue” to uncover a global conspiracy comes across as slightly ridiculous and entirely unrealistic.  If any government were able to keep a situation like this covered up, they would have the means to squelch any gumshoe soldiers that got curious.

Overall, “Green Zone” is an entertaining thriller that attempts to base itself inside real events while telling a wartime fantasy of sorts.  If you are able to accept this film as a complete work of fiction and enjoy it as the action-thriller it is, then it will probably work for you.  Director Paul Greengrass has a strong visual style that contributes to the realism that the film is trying to convey.  Matt Damon delivers again on this action star role, despite some occasionally cliché dialogue that might have set other actors further back.  If not for the few scenes of forced anti-war exposition, I would have enjoyed “Green Zone” a lot more.  If this type of film is your cup of tea, and the trailer made you excited to see it, then it will undoubtedly give you your moneys worth.

One Comment leave one →
  1. windi permalink
    March 12, 2010 7:41 am

    I’m looking forward to this movie–despite the obvious similarities to the whole Bourne series. Maybe because of it! I loved those movies! I recently tried to read the books, and got halfway through the second one before I gave up! Wow, the books are complicated!

    So yeah, Damon playing a Bourne-like character works for me! :)~

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