Friday, March 12, 2010

Green Zone

GREEN ZONE (Paul Greengrass, 2010)

Time and again Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Matt Damon) follows intelligence reports regarding the locations of Weapons of Mass Destruction in 2003 Baghdad, but much to his unit's frustration in GREEN ZONE, they find absolutely nothing. A source known as Magellan has supplied all of the information that predicated the United States' intervention in Iraq, yet the experiences of troops on the ground and doubts of a CIA operative suggest that the books have been cooked, so to speak.

In reteaming Damon and director Paul Greengrass, who made the last two Jason Bourne movies together, GREEN ZONE becomes a crypto BOURNE film that again finds a single man doggedly trying to uncover the truth and take down those who would hide it. Driving the narrative is the bad intelligence and futile search for WMDs that characterized the start of the ongoing Iraq War, so there's no doubt that GREEN ZONE cannot avoid the taint of dividing viewers according to political ideologies.

The film comes down squarely against a war that has proven costly in American and Iraqi lives, especially if it was conceived out of lies, so it's tailor-made for hot button editorials and seething viewers sympathetic to both sides of the Congressional aisle. Depending on your view, the film whips you into righteous anger or offended antagonism.

Stripped of its political urgency, GREEN ZONE is a dynamic action film akin to recent Best Picture winner THE HURT LOCKER. Greengrass utilizes the cinema verite style that has been his trademark since BLOODY SUNDAY. The wobbly camerawork and quick cutting tend to induce fatigue, especially during a climactic nighttime chase of an Iraqi general through war-torn streets, but the director brings an undeniable immediacy to the material that a more static aesthetic would struggle to maintain.

Occasionally Greg Kinnear relieves the film's unrelenting nature as an administration toady obstructing the hero's best efforts. The ending, which can be interpreted as a conventionally happy conclusion, has produced grumbles in some corners, but in retrospect, I wonder if it isn't one last gut punch regarding the irrelevance of facts. GREEN ZONE may be too intent on achieving its purpose to unwind for some necessary spells, but as a politically-charged action film, it accomplishes the mission.

Grade: B-

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