March 14, 2010

The Late Reality of Green Zone

Green Zone, like the war it portrays is a muddled look at the war at the "conflict" in Iraq. It hovers in weird limbo area that is 50% badass military action thriller and 50% political message movie. This medium-zone both strengthens the film and weakens it at the same time. Shot back in 2008, it  has been waiting for deployment for a long time, I can see why it has been delayed.

Matt Damon plays Roy Miller, a tough talking army leader who along with his team is searching for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Now keep in mind the film takes place in 2003, when the war was fresh (and had popular support) and the world believed that the WMDs were there. The search for the WMD leads Miller to the CIA, rogue Republic Guard generals, The Washington Pos, and to all around Baghdad. That's all I'm going to say but don't worry, this film roars along at breakneck speed. The script here by Brian Helgeland moves like a helicopter roaring over Baghdad. And don't worry there are political messages here a plenty, and if you don't believe, take a look at the last shot of film (it involves something that's black and plentiful in the Middle East).

So if the film has a strong political script and is anchored by a great performance by Damon, what is the problem? Well, it lies with the direction, and it pains me to say because I like director Paul Greengrass, but he seems a little lost here. He doesn't know if he should let it rip on the sensational fantasy violence of the Bourne movies or keep it grounded in the documentary realism of Bloody Sunday and United 93. Every time you think it's going to take off on an crazy action level it brings you back to reality and every time the action gets too real something slightly spectacular happens to let you know you're watching a film, not breathing on the battlefield.

Yet besides this somewhat major flaw, I do feel that the film is an important one. It basically uses the premise of entertainment (BOURNE IN IRAQ) to remind the American people, and the world, how terribly we screwed up in Iraq. Elements of the film, including fabricated sources, corrupt officials, internal military squabbles, and a horrible understanding of local politics were and all still prevalent in Iraq today. And don't forget Greengrass's use of imagery from the last decade to remind us how terrible The United States can be. There are hooded detainees, torture victims, dogs barking at detainees, yeah you get the picture.

If you're expecting Jason Bourne in Iraq you may be a little disappointed, but hey you will learn a couple things to.

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