(2010)3.5Jason BuchananAn American soldier questions his government's reasons for going to war and embarks on a desperate race to confirm his darkest suspicions in Green Zone, director Paul Greengrass' frantic Iraq War action thriller. Gripping in its early scenes and involving as the increasingly skeptical soldier stumbles across evidence of a massive cover-up, the film falters only during the unendurably jarring climax, when Greengrass' trademark handheld camerawork becomes so disorienting that it goes beyond conveying the chaos of warfare and devolves into a tiresome, unintelligible eyesore.
Baghdad, Iraq: 2003. Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Matt Damon) and his men are searching the city for WMDs when, once again, they come up empty-handed. After voicing suspicions that the military may be receiving faulty intelligence and being silenced by his superiors, Chief Miller is approached by CIA agent Martin Brown (Brendan Gleeson), who asks Miller to contact him with any relevant updates. Meanwhile, Wall Street Journal reporter Lawrie Dayne (Amy Ryan) pushes White House intelligence correspondent Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear) for information regarding an Iraqi insider code-named "Magellan," who may be the source of the intelligence that the military is currently acting on. As Chief Miller and his men continue their search, they're approached by an Iraqi named Freddy (Khalid Abdalla), who just saw some of Saddam Hussein's top men holding a meeting at a local house. When one of those men proves to be Al Rawi, the Jack of Clubs in the deck of Iraqi "Most-Wanted" playing cards, Chief Miller senses his team may be onto something, and quickly discovers that sometimes the greatest enemy is within.
Deftly scripted by Brian Helgeland and populated by a more than capable cast, Green Zone is, at its core, a high-stakes mystery set against the backdrop of a war-torn city. It has the distinct feeling of being written by someone who was actually there to experience these kind of events firsthand, which comes as no surprise since it's based on a book by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, a onetime Baghdad bureau chief of the Washington Post who was present as American forces attempted to set up a provisional government on the grounds surrounding former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's opulent palace. And though we only get the occasional glimpse into life in that lavish, heavily fortified bubble -- where it isn't uncommon to find high-ranking officials soaking up sun by the pool, a slice of pizza in one hand and a cold beer in the other -- it's the effects of the betrayal committed by the U.S. government on its own soldiers, and everyday Iraqi citizens, that Helgeland seems most concerned in portraying. He does so by focusing largely on Chief Miller and Freddy, two men who just want the truth, and who are willing to fight for the futures of their respective countries. This sentiment is beautifully portrayed in a scene where Miller reassures Freddy that he'll be compensated for his role in helping the U.S. military, and the embattled Iraqi becomes overwhelmed with emotion while proclaiming that he didn't do what he did for a reward, but rather for the betterment of his country and his own people. Abdalla's role may be a small one, but he makes a big impression in just a few key scenes.
The only place the film truly falters is under the direction of Greengrass, whose harried, twitchy style serves well to capture simmering emotions in confined spaces, yet flies hopelessly off the handle when the action moves outside. Even a simple punch to the face loses its power when the camera jerks violently away during a brief fistfight; Greengrass wants to give us a sense of getting lost in the scuffle, but instead only frustrates us as we struggle to try and figure out who has the upper hand, and precisely how they managed to get it. A climactic chase through the bombed-out streets of Baghdad could have been a nail-biting game of cat and mouse had the director taken care to give the audience a solid sense of spatial relations, but by attempting to use radar and military technology to do the job for him, Greengrass ultimately ends up crafting a scene that makes The Blair Witch Project look like it was shot on a Steadicam. Thankfully for Greengrass, Helgeland's screenplay manages to draw us back into the action with a poignant line from supporting character Freddy, and with a coda that's at once satisfying and sobering in its depiction of poetic justice. Unlike most action blockbusters that hit the multiplexes, Green Zone leaves a real mark due to the fact that the real-life consequences of the events depicted in the film are still being felt today -- by the citizens of both Iraq and America -- so while the story wraps up fairly nicely onscreen, the actual end is still, quite tragically, nowhere in sight.
United 93 director Paul Greengrass explores the aftermath of the Iraq invasion in this feature adaptation of author Rajiv Chandrasekaran's literary exposé Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone. A onetime Baghdad bureau chief of the Washington Post, Chandrasekaran was present as American forces attempted to set up a provisional government on the grounds surrounding former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's opulent palace. The resulting governing body, according to critics, existed in a bubble so far-removed from the grim realities of the Iraq War that it failed to properly assess the needs of the people. In this fictional thriller set during the U.S.-led occupation of Baghdad, director Greengrass and screenwriter Brian Helgeland use Chandrasekaran's journalistic account as the foundation for the story of an officer who joins forces with a senior CIA officer to unearth evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Matt Damon) is certain that Hussein has been stockpiling WMDs in the Iraqi desert, but in their race from one empty site to the next, they soon stumble across evidence of an elaborate cover up. As a result, Miller realizes that operatives on both sides of the conflict are attempting to spin the story in their favor. Now, as Miller searches for answers made ever more elusive by covert and faulty intelligence, the truth becomes the most valuable weapon of all. Will those answers prove pivotal in clearing a rogue regime, or escalate the war in a region that grows increasingly unstable with each passing day? Amy Ryan co-stars as the New York Times foreign correspondent who travels to Iraq investigating the U.S. government's allegations about weapons of mass destruction, with Greg Kinnear appearing in the role of an additional CIA officer, and Antoni Corone essaying the role of a colonel. Brendan Gleeson rounds out the main cast for this Universal Pictures production.