“Green Zone” Movie Review

Green Zone posterReview by Wes Hemings

“Green Zone” is not Jason Bourne goes to Iraq, it’s a movie aiming at making sense of historic moments in Iraq: specifically the lack of finding WMDs upon successfully invading Iraq in the 2003 invasion. The movie starts with Chief Miller (played by Matt Damon) securing the location of a possible WMD site, but as it turns out the intelligence is bad, and it’s the third time the intel has put him and his men at risk for something that wasn’t there. His questioning of the intel gets him reprimanded, but ultimately finds him a CIA friend, thus beginning the fall down the rabbit hole.

Coming 7 years after the fact, it will come as no surprise to anyone who paid an ounce of attention that there are two inescapable facts about our war on Iraq, 1) we went there on the basis that we had evidence Saddam had Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs), and 2) there were none found. What really works in this film for me is the use of historical accuracies, such as disbanding the Republican Army and tortuing for information, and intertwining it with a plausible story to fill in the gaps that weren’t televised (i.e. why the information was bad). While I know the details are fabricated to serve a dramatic storyline, the idea and principle of false propaganda being used to initiate a war is hardly a new concept here locally. All the same, I appreciate the attempt at generating interest in our government’s ill-conceived war mongering.

Why you’ll like it:
Decent action propped up by relevant drama and political commentary.

Ironically, the thing that I liked is also going to be the failing of this film, and by that I mean the information being dramatically delivered comes as neither shocking or even freshly conceived. It basically amounts to a re-hashed CNN news piece, live from Baghdad. If you’re wanting information about what went wrong in Iraq, I’d recommend the excellent documentary “No End In Sight”, or if you’re more interested on the “evidence” of why we went there in the first place then you should see “Why We Fight”, but that’s only if you’re strictly interested in facts.

Why you won’t like it:
More political commentary on Iraq and WMDs, but with bullets.

If you’re familiar with Greengrass’ other films, particularly “Bourne Ultimatum” and “Bourne Supremacy”, then you’re all too familiar with his shakey-cam tactics when filming fight sequences, that’s important to know because he doesn’t exclude those techniques from “Green Zone”. I will say that it’s greatly calmed down for this though, I literally got a headache and had to turn my head while watching “Bourne Ultimatum” in theaters, so I was grateful that the blurry quick-cuts were toned down and made much easier to follow, the last sequence of 15 or 20  minutes was a complex, yet not too difficult to follow chase sequence that was pretty gratifying.

Probably the biggest surprise for me was the action itself. The filming technique was a bit of a “Cloverfield” meets “Black Hawk Down”, the lighting was largely dim but the explosions were fairly grand, so the level of realism is easily achieved. I think ultimately the lack of original material will be what hurts this flm, though it creatively fills in a backstory for the “why” and the “how”, it’s regurgitating a war that America is easily tired of seeing and hearing about, no one wants to pay money to hear more political commentary about it. I like it, but not enough to say that you’re going to get anything new out of it.

3 stars out of 5.

Starring: Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Brendan Gleeson
Director: Paul Greengrass
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hr. 55 min.
Release Date: March 12, 2010