Movie Review: Green Zone
Austin360.com | Austin American-Statesman
Finding a middle ground between his Bourne films and his critically praised re-enactments of history ("Bloody Sunday," "United 93"), Paul Greengrass explores some horrible truths about the Iraqi war with the fictional action movie "Green Zone."
The friction between history and contrivance isn't perfectly resolved, making this the British director's least successful American feature, but even with unsure footing, Greengrass is more nimble than most filmmakers working today.
Teaming again with "Bourne" star Matt Damon, whose rock-jawed seriousness perfectly matches the director's perpetually anxious mood, Greengrass gives us Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller, whose men have spent the weeks following America's 2003 "Shock and Awe" campaign searching in vain for weapons of mass destruction.
Increasingly frustrated with his superiors, who insist their information is solid despite all evidence to the contrary, Miller stumbles across an intel source of his own: an English-speaking Iraqi named Freddy, who has witnessed a secret gathering of high-ranking Ba'athists — one of whom turns out to be a general named Al Rawi, a man who would know all about sensitive weapons programs.
To this point, Greengrass has delivered a solid military procedural not unlike others seen in the past half-decade. But as the discovery of Al Rawi attracts attention from people like intelligence officer Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear) and Brendan Gleeson's CIA chief Martin Brown — men supposedly on the same side who clearly have opposing agendas and ethics — "Green Zone" morphs into political-thriller territory.
That's turf Greengrass knows well, and having left his Ludlum-invented superspy behind, the filmmaker stages action that is more jagged and less aestheticized than the made-for-thrills exploits of Jason Bourne.
Even so, "Green Zone," scripted by Brian Helgeland, remains enough of a Hollywood action film that its attempt to weave in real-world intrigue doesn't quite fit.
Greengrass is too serious an artist to manufacture a pure wish-fulfillment tale, in which those who (knowingly or not) used lies to justify war get their comeuppance. But the movie leans in that direction, with its dialogue occasionally spelling things out blatantly, as when Matt Damon urges a Judith Miller-like journalist to be more careful in the future about verifying the too-good-to-be-true information that confidential sources give her.
The filmmakers struggle to find a satisfactory resolution here, one that allows for dramatic confrontations and cathartic violence without straying too far from the facts of the war. They come close, but what they arrive at feels slightly hollow — convincing only in its assertion of truths we already understand about the depth of the mess in Iraq.