Film review by: Witney Seibold
Director Paul Greengrass (“The Bourne Supremacy,” “United 93,” “Bloody Sunday”) is known for his gritty hand-held camerawork, his complex, politically charged plots, and an immediate rawness of subject. He spends little time with conventional Hollywood nonsense like slickness, sexiness, or even spoon-fed storytelling clarity; he seems more interested in the intensity of the moment. This makes for films that are intense to watch but can, it must be admitted, be strangely clunky in the telling.
I am glad to report that his latest film “Green Zone,” written by Brian Helgeland and starring Matt Damon is brisk and clear, and, despite having a complex real-life political mystery at its core, is still an exciting and engaging actioner. If there are any complaints to be brought up against this film, it’s that it perhaps arrived four years too late.
It is 2003. Damon plays a soldier named Miller who is in charge of finding the WMDs hidden in Iraq. He charges intently into various sites based on government intelligence, only to find that there are no WMDs. His men are constantly being shot at, and there are looters everywhere. There aren’t enough American soldiers to contain the chaos. This is a familiar story, innit? Eventually, Miller begins to doubt the intel he’s been getting from the posh higher-ups, represented by a particularly smarmy Greg Kinnear. It’s not ling before a stalwart patriotic local (Khalid Abdalla), and a determined CIA spook (Brendan Gleeson) are encouraging Miller to conduct a little investigation of his own to see just where this false intel is coming from. Those of us familiar with the history of the Iraq war know where his investigation will lead him.
There is a cameo by that infamous deck of cards, and no small implication that the Bush Jr. administration not only made bad decisions and stupid mistakes, but were also guilty of lies and fraud.
This is effective and well-told and, like I said very well directed and refreshingly clear. Most films like this have a tendency to bog themselves down with either preachy political claptrap, or needlessly complex stories that one cannot easily follow. Even the acting is great, from the leads to smaller roles by Amy Ryan as a flustered reporter to an unrecognizable Jason Isaacs as a bullying solider. But, for 2010, this film is hardly timely. Had this come out during the Bush Jr. administration, it may have been seen as damning, or at least effectively topical. As it is, “Green Zone” almost plays as nostalgia.