Green Zone (Review)

GREEN ZONE
(3/12/10; Thriller)
Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Brendan Gleeson, Amy Ryan, Khalid Abdalla
SCR: Brian Helgeland; based on the book Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone by Rajiv Chandrasekaran
DIR: Paul Greengrass
MPAA: R for violence and language.
1 hour 55 mins
BOX: $35,422,895

Despite being sold like a Bourne Identity sequel, Green Zone is about the chaos of the early days of the war in Iraq; and how dedicated warrant officer Roy Miller (Damon) slowly comes to the conclusion that there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction and the intel was cooked from the start.

If you’re part of the choir that this film is preaching to, this is all going to seem very familiar and, frankly, a bit simplistic. It’s not quite the action movie equivalent of No End in Sight (2007) but the way it doles out bullet points, it might as well have featured Al Gore with a laser pointer. That said, if you’re looking for a good old-fashioned shoot ’em up, you may not want to be preached at.

I’m still not crazy about Greengrass as a director. His use of “shaky cam” is now legendary. He’s great at staging clutter and calamity and, indeed, there are a handful of show-stopping big-screen action moments, like the nighttime destruction of a helicopter. But Green Zone plays like an extended “it’s the only lead we have” episode of 24.

The characters might be cardboard cutouts – the ambitious reporter, the scheming military officer, the senior adviser who knows more than what he’s saying – but the actors do what they can and at times, are refreshingly cast against type. Gleeson is all pomp and gravitas. The likable Kinnear is a clever choice as the baldly ambitious policy wonk plunging Iraq into chaos without the slightest understanding of “cause and effect.”

Damon doesn’t get many opportunities to show us anything new but it’s to his credit that he’s always believable as a thinking man’s action hero. It’s a different era now than when All the President’s Men (1974) created cinematic drama out of previously- unknown facts. That film could exist as a thriller because nobody was exactly sure of the outcome or the gears working behind it.

Alas, Green Zone offers nothing that hasn’t been covered ad nauseum in recent history. But with this country being so hopelessly polarized and with news outlets waving red or blue flags, it’s no less than a small miracle the film exists at all.

THE NO-GREEN ZONE: The $100 million movie bombed at the box office, once again proving audiences aren’t interested in paying to see Iraq war movies. (Universal)

Author: Dennis Willis

Dennis Willis is an award-winning producer, TV host, producer, director, editor (he preferred Avid until a torrid affair with Adobe Premiere, and the rest is history), author and film critic (print and radio). Dennis produced and hosted the TV programs Reel Life, FilmTrip, Soundwaves (1983-2008) and produces the annual Soundwaves Xmas program. He is currently the film critic on KGO Radio in San Francisco, and a member of both the San Francisco Film Critics Circle and the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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