GREEN ZONE 1/4
Universal Pictures, Rated R
While movies about U.S. military incursions in the Middle East may be appreciated in their attempt to make sense of war and the like, audiences don’t actually want to end up overseas. This is sometimes a matter of confusion in filmmaker minds, as they convey war in Iraq less as dramatic revelation and more as stomach churning, real-time, traumatic virtual combat experiences.
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This is the problem seriously plaguing Green Zone—not to be confused with environmental concerns; actually quite the ecological opposite—which feels less like a war zone than the epicenter of an earthquake. Or, let’s say, a camera that seems like it’s being tossed around during a football game.
Matt Damon is Roy Miller, an army officer assigned to ferret out those alleged weapons of mass destruction from the rubble, following the U.S. invasion of Iraq, in order to justify the country’s military assault and occupation. With shady when not sadistic CIA operatives and interrogators running interference, pressure from unscrupulous suits in D.C. and woefully bad leads pointing to toilet factories and abandoned sheds covered in decade-old pigeon droppings, Miller begins to suspect covert shenanigans and a politically orchestrated con job.
There’s also a pestering Wall Street journalist (Amy Ryan) on the sidelines who is hunting for her own scoop. She’s less interested in the truth than a potential Pulitzer, eagerly spoon-fed unconfirmed tips like a courtroom stenographer from a secret, possibly fictitious insider source with the ironically colonialist code name Magellan. Speaking of ironic names, did I mention Judith Miller? If Damon’s character is tagged with the same name, it could be a tongue-in-cheek suspect case of no coincidence.
Directed by Paul Greengrass (the Bourne trilogy), penned by Brian Helgeland (Cirque du Freak, A Knight’s Tale) and adapted from the bestseller novel Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone by Indian-American Washington Post war correspondent Rajiv Chandrasekaran, the film is loosely based on the experiences of army chief warrant officer Richard (Monty) Gonzales, whose Mobile Exploitation Team was sent in search of those WMDs during the 2003 Iraq invasion and came up with nothing. The same can be said of this movie, which tends to toss aside any focus on current events or the historical record for a dumbed down, grating generic cat-and-mouse thriller.
It’s as if the filmmakers figured that we already know the ending, so let’s just have some fun chasing down bad guys. Which, when you think about it, is no laughing matter, considering the sobering statistics: Nearly one-and-a-half million dead Iraqis, more than 31,000 U.S. military deaths and 100,000 wounded, 320,000 veterans with brain injuries, and an estimated 18 soldier and vet suicides per day.
Green Zone: Audience seat belts are a must, and a few aspirins on hand wouldn’t be a bad idea either.