Green Zone

Released: 2010
Director: Paul Greengrass
Starring: Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear

Not a great war film – or a great political drama

No director has yet managed to produce a great film set during the Iraq War.  I know Kathryn Bigelow won an Oscar for directing ‘The Hurt Locker’ but that was pretty dull and I fell asleep watching it.  Maybe everyone is still feeling too raw about events in the Middle East.  How can a triumphant and heroic war film be made when there’s been no triumph and more controversy than heroism?

That was clearly playing on the mind of Paul Greengrass when making Green Zone.  Matt Damon plays Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller, a US Army officer tasked with finding elusive weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in Baghdad immediately after the fall of Saddam Hussein.  Miller is frustrated by the faulty intelligence he and his team receive and begins to follow his own leads to investigate why this false intelligence has been given so much credibility.

The cast is very good.  I tend to think of Matt Damon as being a bit slow and dim-witted (thanks Team America!) so I’m always surprised to discover that he’s really quite a talented actor, which he displays well here.  Greg Kinnear is impressive as the slimy politician Clark Poundstone and Brendan Gleeson adds his usual brilliance to his role as the Baghdad CIA Bureau Chief who encourages Miller’s investigation.  Sadly the lovely Jason Isaacs is wasted in what is little more than a cameo performance as a tough special forces soldier hunting for high value Iraqi targets.  On the other hand, his moustache owns the screen every time it appears.  It is the most impressive facial foliage I’ve ever seen in a movie!

Green Zone was marketed as ‘Bourne goes Epic’, making the direct comparison with Greengrass and Damon’s phenomenally successful espionage thrillers.  This ploy doesn’t do the film any favours and merely highlights the schizophrenic nature of Green Zone.  I was never sure if it was meant to be an intelligent study of the betrayal felt by ordinary soldiers on the realisation they had been sent to war on false pretences or if it was a gung-ho, all-action war movie.  Elements of both are included but neither completely works.  There’s great stories to be told from both perspectives but this isn’t one, it’s simply too disjointed.

Another problem I had with the film was that I spent a lot of time muttering “Well, we know that now“.  I’m not sure if a film about the Iraq War could be written without the benefits of hindsight but Green Zone would have benefited from a little less certainty about the director’s political opinions.  I also can’t say I’m a fan of Greengrass’ filming style – it’s too choppy for me, I prefer to be able to see clearly and steadily what I’m watching.

Green Zone doesn’t convince as either a political thriller or an action-adventure, but it does pass a couple of hours.

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  1. I tried 3 times to watch this film and enjoy it. I was determined to!! But alas like yourself I was very disappointed!!

    Not for me at all!

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