The Green Zone is the common name for the International Zone of Iraq, a 4 mile square area in central Baghdad, Iraq, that was the center of the Coalition Provisional Authority and remains the center of all international presence in the city. It’s also the title of Matt Damon’s latest film, directed by Paul Greengrass (Bourne Supremcy/Ultimatum, Bloody Sunday, United 93) and scripted by Brian Helgeland (Mystic River, Man on Fire) and heavily based on the non fiction book Imperial Life in the Emerald City by journalist Rajiv Chandrasekaran.
Green Zone is set the very early days of the Iraq war, it follows Roy Miller (Damon) and his team of inspectors who are sent to find w.m.d’s believed to be stockpiled in the desert. Hopping from each trap laden and dangerous site to the next, the team look frantically for poisonous chemical agents but consistently stumble upon nothing which leads Miller to question the intel he has been fed.
The easiest way to review Green Zone would be to say, if you like the Bourne films then you’ll like this. While that may be true, it would be lazy and would overlook the differences in stylistic tone and production between the first Bourne film and the Paul Greengrass directed sequels.
It’s Greengrass’s touch on the latter films that I dislike, his insistence of using hand-held camera work is somewhat nauseating and looks more like he strapped the camera to a goat and kicked it into the scene than anything else. This hand-held style carries over into Green Zone and Greengrass uses it throughout the film to create tension and suspense, however all the work creating that tension seems less like a conscious decision and more like a cover-up for the lack of proper scripting and character development. All through the film any important information and historical fact seem to be jammed inbetween action and come of as contrived and simplistic. Miller’s role in the story is to consistently poke at his superiors and ask questions – which he does, but instead of varied responses and intriguing answers each prod is met with the same thing; action sequence.
Unfairly Green Zone will draw heavy comparisons to recent Oscar success The Hurt Locker, with similar themes and settings, both films look to provoke and excite through politics – it just seems like Green Zone is late to the game and only read the first few lines of an Iraq war wiki entry before skipping to the end and rearing its head up. Its choice to lecture as well as thrill constantly seems half hearted and like it was a studio afterthought (or more likely, it was a studio decision to dumb down the content). Throughout the movie I was constantly left with the impression that the film was created by Hollywood for Hollywood and to thrill and stimulate just enough to put bums in the seats. Thats OK though, not every single movie can be a game changer and what Green Zone does, it does incredibly well and like I said before, if you like the Bourne series you will love it, if you weren’t a fan of the Bourne series however you could still do alot worse than this. If you can look past the shaking cam, the cinematography has a great sense of realism and does its best to create an atmosphere you will find hard to pull yourself out of. Damon puts on a solid performance, as does his immediate political rival Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear) and both actors do their best to cover up the films flaws.
Green Zone is by no means a bad film and it’s good outweighs it’s bad, just make sure your expectations aren’t set too high.