Wednesday, March 17, 2010


By: The Mad Hatter

If one were to step outside into the Iraqi sunshine in The Green Zone, they might see people taking photos like tourists. They might see administrators in suits walking to and fro like they owned the joint. In short, they might think that since The Coalition took Baghdad and fortified this ten square kilometre area, the success of the mission was well in hand.

But as all the political maneuvering of Matt Damon's latest film shows us, one shouldn't be so naive.

GREEN ZONE begins with American forces having already taken over Baghdad; they are now tossing site after site in the hunt for weapons of mass destruction. Chief Roy Miller (Matt Damon) leads a squad that has searched site after site and so far has come up with jack squat. Making his mission all the more frustrating is the fact that Miller and his team are working off page after page of American intelligence, all of which is getting systematically disproven.

After Miller finally speaks up—and quickly gets shut up by senior officers—he is approached by a CIA employee named Martin Brown (Brendan Gleeson). Brown has specialized in Middle East intelligence for years and seems to understand what is going on better than anyone else. He suggests to Miller that things aren't what they seem and that he might want to dig a little deeper . . . on his own.

Contradicting Brown's ideas is Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear), a high-ranking Washington administrator. He is convinced that his heavily guarded source "Magellan" has given him credible inside intel, and Poundstone has no problem saying so to Miller as well as New York Times reporter Lawrie Dayne (Amy Ryan). If a high ranking Washington administrator tells you that a CIA employee is offbase and that the raw data is to be trusted, he probably knows what he's talking about, right?

GREEN ZONE is well aware of its mission, and that mission isn't to be a totem of the antiwar movement. It sacrifices validity for entertainment. Its story of a soldier calling his own plays and working in direct competition with his own commanding officers won't be used as an example in any debate of American policy anytime soon. But you know what folks? There's nothing wrong with that.

GREEN ZONE is more interested in taking a building-block kernel of truth and using it to construct an intense bit of political intrigue. The audience follows right in step with Chief Roy Miller for every intense moment of the play he has called. It doesn't matter to the movie, or to the audience, that Miller couldn't possibly call a play like this. And this clearly needs to be credited to the creative pairing of director Paul Greengrass and star Matt Damon.

There are few directors working in Hollywood today who seem to be able to do intrigue and action better than Greengrass. Admittedly, his use of hand-held "shaky cam" can be a bit much for some viewers, but he has a way of grounding action sequences so that the action becomes more plausible and intense, and less about mach-six editing and expansive pyrotechnics. Damon meanwhile works rather well as an action star because he finds a way to retain his everyman demeanor, shrugging off the superhero persona that makes many A-list actors unbelievable in moments of peril.

While GREEN ZONE isn't terribly much more than a straight-up action flick, it takes direct aim at our collective conscience by continually reminding us that America's rallying cry for the need to invade Iraq was at best, questionable and at worst, dead wrong. In the opening act, the frustration is palpable as Miller's teams keep coming up empty in the search for weapons of mass destruction. Hindsight makes that frustration infinitely worse.

-The Mad Hatter

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