On Shaky Ground: The Green Zone Movie Review

The Green Zone looks like a Bourne movie, which comes as no surprise considering that the director, Paul Greengrass was behind the wheel for the last two movies in that trilogy and the main character is played by Jason Bourne himself, Matt Damon. But while the visceral impact of the shaky-camera delivers the same sort of highly-immersive quality to the action sequences, the overall tone of The Green Zone is radically different from any Ultimatums or Supremacies that may have preceded it. In terms of tone, the movie gracefully avoids the more shrill agitprop of some other Issue Films that have tackled the costs of our military presence in Iraq. But it still tends toward making its points with a heavy hand and a clear agenda.

To its credit, The Green Zone is a little more The Hurt Locker than In the Valley of Elah. The film deals with the question of the lack of WMDs in Iraq in the early days of the invasion by dressing it up in action movie drag. Matt Damon plays an idealistic American special forces soldier who becomes obsessed with finding the Weapons of Mass Destruction that predicated the invasion in the first place. After coming up empty several times he begins to question the intelligence that keeps sending him on wild goose chases that yield pigeon-crap-soaked toilet factories in place of chemical or biological weapons. His questioning meets several dead-ends before he discovers an Iraqi general who has special information about the WMD program in Iraq. Spolier alert for those not paying attention: There was no such program and no such weapons.

The problem of whether the administration was merely negligent in regard to the quality of the intelligence doesn’t get a serious examination in the movie. Greg Kinnear’s shady bureaucrat takes on the role of the villain and the film clearly implicates him as intentionally working off bad intel and convincing others to do the same with full knowledge that what they had was bunk. His casual disregard for the truth and self-serving desire to shift focus away from WMDs and onto democracy in Iraq is positively cartoonish in its cliched simplicity. Perhaps such a clear-cut villain was necessary for the thriller side of the movie to come to the fore in the film’s final act but it does a poor job of dealing with the intelligence failures in an evenhanded way.

As message movies go, it’s less strident than some but more simplistic than others. Still, if it’s been a few years since you last saw Matt Damon kicking ass in steadycam, and you want to watch things go boom real good you could do worse than The Green Zone.

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