Theatrical Review: GREEN ZONE

James Wallace

by: James Wallace
March 12th, 2010

Green Zone Poster

Rating: 7.5/10

Writers: Rajiv Chandrasekaran (book), Brian Helgeland (screenplay)
Director: Paul Greengrass
Cast: Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Brendan Gleeson, Amy Ryan
Studio: Universal Pictures

From director Paul Greengrass comes GREEN ZONE, starring Matt Damon as Sergeant Roy Miller, a soldier trying to make sense of a senseless war.

The film takes us back to 2003, in the wake of the U.S. occupation of Iraq with Operation Iraqi Freedom and our search for weapon’s of mass destruction. At this point, it is widely accepted that there were in fact no WMD’s to be found, which raises questions of the validity of this cause in the first place. In this smart political thriller Greengrass, with a well-paced and layered script from Brian Helgeland (MAN ON FIRE, MYSTIC RIVER), attempts to formulate an answer to such questions.

We are taken us back to the chaos and confusion of the war through Miller's eyes - or rather Damon's, as the actor gives an earnest performance as a soldier searching for answers and, notably, does a good job of separating his rogue soldier persona from his rogue spy persona. We join him as he's thrown right into the thick of things, as soldiers are sent out on search missions in a ravaged and tension-filled Iraq only to come up with nothing but sand in their hands. Sergeant Miller begins to doubt the legitimacy of his mission at hand, and soon discovers that the U.S. received its intelligence from a single source. One mysterious source referred to as “Magellan,” kept under cloak and dagger by the Pentagon’s weasely Clark Poundtsone (Greg Kinnear). What Miller, along with the aide of CIA operative Martin Brown (Brendan Gleeson) and journalist Lawrie Dayne (Amy Ryan), finds is a conspiracy so deep it cuts to the heart of political discourse and bleeds red the color of the American flag.

Greengrass, obviously no stranger to espionage and dirty politics, has applied his “shoot-from-the-hip” cinematography to the well-loved BOURNE series giving him a sort of auteur reputation for films of this genre. But if it’s THE BOURNE GREEN ZONE you’re looking for, you may be surprised to find it’s not quite that. That’s not to say the film isn’t enjoyable in fast-paced and suspenseful nature, as Greengrass uses his signature docu-style with this film, creating that same gritty sense of cinema verite that he has in BOURNE and UNITED 93 alike.

But GREEN ZONE is a much more heavy film than BOURNE yet a much more fictional take on war and terrorism than UNITED 93. Here audiences are given a fictional backstory to a very non-fictional war that many have long questioned the reasons for.

And it does just what every good political thriller should and does do. It raises more questions. Questions about government. Questions about their motives. Moreover, questions of trust in the very institution sworn to protect our freedoms. And questions of our place in the world and if we have the right to determine these things for other governments and other cultures of people. All resulting in one bold, self-asertive answer in the end. In the form of a question of course...

The thing you realize in this is there really are no answers to these questions. They are the very questions that will be asked as long as war and subsequent political conspiracy exists. With GREEN ZONE, Greengrass & Co. attempt to at least make sense of it all. Furthermore, the film shows that, even if you think no one is listening and it will do no good, you should still ask the questions and search for the truth.

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