Do you remember where you were on March 19, 2003? I remember sitting in my living room, eyes glued to the television watching the newly televised war in Iraq. There were shocking videos of air strikes over the cramped buildings and homes in Baghdad, it was night there and the sky was lighting up from the bombs and explosions across the scenery. Paul Greengrass picks up from that moment in Green Zone showing Iraqis evacuating their homes and taking shelter elsewhere.
One month later, we are following Chief Roy Miller (Matt Damon) leading a small team of men into dangerous zones that might possibly house WMD. Only problem is this is the third time the intel has sent them somewhere completely empty, this one only held pigeon droppings. He begins to suspect a rat race and seeks to find the truth. When he speaks out at a meeting about bad intel, he is just told to shut up. He makes some contacts after to help him solve the mystery of the missing bombs. One is a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, Lawrie Dayne (Amy Ryan). He finds out that all of the intel is coming from a source named Magellan. She can’t tell him who that is though. He also meets Martin Brown (Brendan Gleeson), who is working for the US CIA, but against Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear) and his gang, who work for the CIA neocon government. Martin Brown tries to help Miller into the right direction of finding this elusive Magellan and do what he can to save lives, while Poundstone just tries to hinder it, and even ruin his life for trying. It is through the struggle between these two guys and Miller that we really capture the message that Greengrass is trying to pass along. One that has been said before, but rings truer this time to have actual events replayed in front of us, which is to be more skeptical of our government and what “facts” they are leaking to our press. Nowadays, no one has time to fact check anything of this kind of importance because it is the early bird who gets the worm. He also uses Miller (Damon) as the people’s voice of concern and reason in a time when our country is engaged in two wars and nobody knows why, exactly. What he says will make us all feel better and vindicated for our thoughts so far.
The film did have a soapbox feel, and for a moment I thought this might be the next Oliver Stone coming around, but I found myself nodding to statements said in the film about the truth to come, since we have already lived it. More and more these days, I don’t know who to believe anymore when it comes to anything the government says and this just helped to solidify those thoughts. We all had a feeling that the “WMDs will be located” just seemed like a reason to invade for oil or other reasons and Green Zone, although it is a fiction story written by Brian Helgeland, gives a face to the other side. Miller joins with an Iraqi local looking to help nicknamed Freddy (Khalid Abdalla) and together they go right to the source of this material and he uses Freddy as his interpreter, while also letting us get to know the heart of the Iraqi people a little better.
There was a begrudged moan from the audience when real footage from the now infamous “Mission Accomplished” Bush speech came on the screen as well as a general stunned laughter from seeing what life was really like inside the busy Coalition Headquarters, which used to be Saddam’s palace which was declared the green zone. It was just a party in the Caribbean. There were girls in bikinis swimming in a huge pool and others just lounging out drinking beer and eating pizza. While just outside the walls, people were dying, inside the palace there was a reminder on the wall for bible study on Wednesday. It just showed the utter lack of reality that the people in charge really lived in, while making life-ending decisions for many outside just to meet an agenda. So enough of the soap box talk now.
The casting was interesting to me. I thought Amy Ryan looked the part of the reporter, but didn’t interest me in the least. Greg Kinnear was the antagonist who I was really excited to see as the bad guy. Although, I can’t say he really delivered the “fear factor.” If what Greengrass was going for was typical Washington politics guy, then he casted well, otherwise, ehh. Brendan Gleeson has always been one of my favorite actors and he didn’t disappoint here either. Matt Damon was, of course, the protagonist and I was really impressed. I have seen a lot of his movies before and he can sometimes come off as flat and even a little boring, although he might be kicking someone’s ass. I really felt his character come to life within five minutes of Damon being on screen. It made it very easy to root for his success throughout the film.
Green Zone was shot through the eyes of Paul Greengrass on a shaky handycam, his signature look. Only this time, it might have gone on too long. I suspected the first thirty minutes or so would be shaky, being out in the field, but even when he treads into the green zone, it is still noticeably shaky. I don’t know if it was my over consumption of Mr. Pibb, or the shaky cam, or both, but by the end of the film, I had a raging headache. It was also overly grainy at times. In a world of High Definition and Avatar, we are too spoiled to go back to grainy SD. This movie could have been gorgeous in HD. I understand that the graininess was probably to add to the sense of thrills, of seeing in the dark like we physically do and maybe feel like we constantly had dust and sand being kicked into our faces. At times with really low light though, it was irritating.
Besides that little misstep, the movie is a powerful statement about current issues while still paying great respect to the Army. No matter what orders were followed by any Army official, I never felt that they were the enemy, just their boss. It is clear from the start that the Army are taught to follow orders and not ask any questions, no matter how morally ambiguous the task may be.
I give Green Zone 3.5 “we ran out of time for Jimmy Kimmel”out of 5
by Angela Davis