Green Zone Review
Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon, you say? So another Bourne movie? Although those names combined with the trailer combined with Damon’s character Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller going rogue combined with mention of a code name person/project that Damon’s character wants answers about might indiscreetly imply the fast-paced action of renegade assassin Jason Bourne, Green Zone is entirely different -- I swear. Arriving on DVD and Blu-ray today, It’s a politically-fueled historical fiction thriller that blends Operation Iraqi Freedom facts with a conventional but effective conspiracy plot.
Miller is in charge of a unit investigating potential WMD sites, all of which have been fruitless to this point. With no confirmed discovery of WMD, Miller starts asking questions of the intel he’s been receiving, questions which wrap him into an amoral vortex of war politics involving a government official named Clark Poundstone (Kinnear) trying to cover up the mysterious intel source called “Magellan” and a CIA man (Gleeson) who plans to use Miller to thwart Poundstone. Also in the mix is Amy Ryan as an American journalist looking for similar answers.
The action of the film centers around Miller trying to track down the Jack of Clubs, aka one of Saddam Hussein’s men who’s on the Iraq’s most wanted playing cards. In general, however, there is not a ton of action, at least not the kind of combat that one with Bourne-sized expectations would be looking for. The suspense and intensity comes from Greengrass’ guerrilla-style filming. It’s like the camera is documenting Miller as he goes on these fairly dangerous missions, much like an embedded journalist would.
The downside to this gritty feel, which in present times can only be compared to The Hurt Locker despite the enormous differences between the films, is a bit of Cloverfield syndrome. Don’t sit too close to the screen during this film — after awhile the hand-held camera starts to unsettle even the least motion-sick of moviegoers. Without question Greengrass makes Green Zone a unique and much more intriguing film with this technique — one to stand out among other Iraq war pictures — but two hours without a single tripod is tedious.
Green Zone is a fairly conventional story adapted by Oscar-winner Brian Helgeland from the book by Rajiv Chandrasekaran. There aren’t many surprises and at times it lapses into trite thriller dialogue, namely the poorly nurtured scenes between Ryan’s journalist and Kinnear’s prick-ish bigshot. One gets the sense that war thrillers that try to stick closely to historical accuracy are not Helgeland’s (L.A. Confidential, Mystic River) strength, but the film moves quickly and for much of the first hour feels rather genuine, taking Americans back to “shock and awe” and reminding us of how at first we truly felt going into Iraq was not only warranted but also right.
Miller’s skepticism of the intel reflects the views of most Americans back in 2003, that desire to hear the reason we were in Iraq when no WMD were found. For an action thriller that’s kind of oddly political. The film’s anti-war statement (did you see that one coming?) fights with the suspense for your brain’s attention, but messages aside, Green Zone never gets to the point where it stops being entertaining or interesting. Greengrass might have stuck your retinas in a blender and kept it on high the whole time, but it doesn’t undermine his strong ability to convey intensity on film.
Directed by: Paul Greengrass
Written by: Brian Helgeland, Rajiv Chandrasekaran
Starring: Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Brendan Gleeson, Amy Ryan
Other Player Affinity Reviews
"Complete with monotony and ridiculous political propaganda, this film is truly a pain to watch. There is no real plot development except for at the beginning and at the end. For roughly two and a half hours, Matt Damon runs around yelling at people. That's the movie right there." Rating: 3/10
Simon thought: "This may not be the hard-hitting expose for which some may be yearning, but Green Zone is all we could hope for in a mainstream Hollywood product. Director Paul Greengrass is certainly no stranger to the events surrounding Iraq, having already helmed the highly touted United 93 which tells the story of one of the doomed planes on September 11, 2001. His obvious passion for the subject gives Green Zone the grounding a film like this needs. Matt Damon is solid with no weepy dramatic scenes or big blow-ups through which to act showy. He is very believable and low-key and is an infinitely charismatic and commanding presence on screen. Kinnear is also quite good as the slimy suit that stands in the way of our hero and the lesser know supporting cast all drive home noteworthy performances as well. This is a rousing action film with a spectacular climax that will keep you entertained and serve as a reminder of what happened in Iraq every time you press play." Rating: 7/10
Kieran thought: "Green Zone is yet another film about the Iraq War that has failed at the box-office. We get the best and worse of Paul Greengrass’ directional style with his latest offering. As for the good, he gets the politics and government of post-war Iraq right, with the American administration doing stupid things like disabling the Iraqi army and civil service, ignoring moderate Ba’athists and not doing basic research on people or groups. Greengrass tells an entertaining spy thriller, showing the conflict within the CIA as Roy Miller search for evidence of WMD and a wider conspiracy with strong military shoots outs. As for the bad, Greengrass once again uses his annoying shaky-cam style, claiming that it gives a film a documentary feel. But all the zooms just make the filming look amateurish and the amount of cuts in a fight does not allow you to see anything (and not done in documentaries). Even you if disagree with the war, the way this conspiracy was handled was poor, with more realistic conspiracies readily available to the filmmakers. Greengrass’ personal view is if you do not agree with him you are either an enemy or an idiot. The politics in The Bourne Ultimatum was much more potent.Green Zone is enjoyable but it needs to be taken with a pinch of salt." Rating: 7/10
Player Affinity Composite Rating: 6.0/10