An entertaining blend of fact and fiction in “The Green Zone”
There were no WMD. We get it. As if to make absolutely sure no one forgets, the Iraq-based military action pic “The Green Zone” hammers home the point relentlessly.
If taken purely as an intense action film, star Matt Damon’s latest collaboration with director Paul Greengrass (the two worked together on the last two “Bourne” films) is satisfying, even intriguing entertainment.
Much has been made of the script’s left-leaning agenda since the film puts the total blame for the wrongful invasion at the hands of high ranking Bush administration officials-in this case weasely bureaucrat Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear). But there is too much obvious fiction in the screenplay written by Brian Helgeland, who was inspired by the book “Imperial Life in the Emerald City,” to be taken seriously as political exposition. Considering it a fourth Bourne film-“The Bourne Atrocity,” perhaps-might be more appropriate.
Set in 2003 in Baghdad, Damon’s character, Army chief Roy Miller, gets fed up with his unit’s fruitless search for WMD in areas that he has been assured have been provided by irrefutable intel. It becomes his mission to root out the origin of the bad intel, which leads to the discovery of a supposed iron-clad source code-named “Magellan.” Damon is easy to cheer for and is surrounded by good actors, including a CIA officer portrayed by the always reliable Brendan Gleeson (“28 Days Later,” and the “Harry Potter” series).
If we are to “buy in” to the premise we must overlook Miller’s many miscues, which include insubordination, lying to fellow officers, defying orders, and even putting his own men at risk. The film also completely skirts the fact that many government officials outside the Bush administration (and in other countries) in fact were convinced that Saddam’s regime had WMD.
In one scene a member of the “evil” Special Forces unit actually assaults Miller-an act worthy of certain court martial-but “The Green Zone” eschews reality by relying heavily on the “one man against the system” storyline that for the most part, works. Greengrass’ standard, shaky, hand- held camera technique is still prevalent and as long as you don’t sit too close it’s only a minor nuisance. Generally, the film is well-shot, mostly in dusty darkness and is superbly paced.
Like all the Iraq-based films thus far, even Oscar winner “The Hurt Locker,” “The Green Zone” despite its merits is unlikely to register with audiences in big numbers. Perhaps the fact the war is still taking place is enough to sour the public’s interest.
But sometimes the intelligence of the moviegoing public is underestimated. Though “The Green Zone” tackles interesting subject material that certainly deserves attention and is a decent action film, many Americans won’t pay to see oversimplified finger-pointing even if it features some of our favorite actors.
Rated R for profanity and violence.