Review: Green Zone


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. 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.

3.5/5 Stars

Green Zone
Directed by: Paul Greengrass
Written by: Brian Helgeland, Rajiv Chandrasekaran
Starring: Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Brendan Gleeson, Amy Ryan


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