Khalid Abdalla, Igal Naor
- Rated R
- Buy the BD
All photos © Universal Pictures
Reviewed by Will Harris
nyone who’s seen “The Bourne Supremacy” and/or “The Bourne Ultimatum” knows that Matt Damon has a solid rapport with director Paul Greengrass when it comes to making action flicks, so it would seem to be a no-brainer that a further collaboration between the two parties would prove to be a safe bet for a kick-ass good time. Unfortunately, while Damon does get a chance to kick some ass, it’s highly unlikely that anyone without a strong interest in military-themed pictures will place “Green Zone” on the same level as any of the “Bourne” films.
Set in 2003, Damon plays Roy Miller, an officer within the U.S. Army who’s getting progressively more frustrated with the inaccuracy of the intelligence reports he’s being given about the location of weapons of mass destruction within Iraq, and as his complaints fall on deaf ears, his annoyance continues to grow. After a well-timed grievance within a briefing, Miller is approached by Martin Brown (Brendan Gleeson), the CIA’s Baghdad bureau chief, who quietly informs him that his latest assignment is going to prove to be a waste of time as well. Why does Brown leak this information? It’s mostly because he thinks Miller has the potential to be of assistance, but you can bet it’s at least partially just because he knows it’ll annoy Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear), the Defense Intelligence agent who’s so slimy that you can practically see him glistening in the hot Iraqi sun.
Miller soon finds himself on a mission to find and bring in General al Rawi (Igal Naor), a senior Iraqi who reportedly has information on the location of the WMDs – like, for real. He ends up being helped on his quest by an Iraqi who calls himself Freddy (Khalid Abdalla) and serves as Miller’s translator. At the very least, al Rawi is in possession of a small notebook which contains the addresses of Baathist safe houses in the Baghdad area, which soon finds its way into Miller’s possession and leads him to realize that there’s more to the goings-on in Iraq than meets the eye. Hovering around the action is Wall Street Journal correspondent Lawrie Dayne (Amy Ryan), who has almost as many questions about the goings-on in Iraq as Miller.
The screenplay for “Green Zone” was written by Brian Helgeland and inspired by Imperial Life in the Emerald City, Washington Post writer Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s book about the American reconstruction project in Iraq, but even if you’ve never read the original source material, there’s little question that it’s more detailed than the resulting fictionalized version that has made it to the screen. Greengrass may know how to make an action film, but he’s kept too many tricks from that trade, a problem which seriously impacts his attempt to make a political thriller. Although he’s highly successful at providing a look into what Iraq was like during the initial days of America’s occupation, particularly during a scene when Miller and his men are bombarded by locals while doing nothing more than driving down the street, there’s so much camera motion throughout the film that you may find yourself closing your eyes just to get a brief respite.
It’s no surprise that Damon proves to be a strong lead, but despite Miller’s recurring references to his “team,” the majority of the other military characters remain thinly developed at best. Kinnear's villainous performance is decidedly helpful at painting America in a horrible light, and Gleeson maintains his reputation as a reliable character actor, but Ryan’s role exists mostly so that Miller can have someone to help deliver the truth at film’s end – if, that is, he finds the truth. I wouldn’t want to spoil anything for you. I will say, however, that the events which occur in the final minutes of the film are positively laughable and destroy any sense of reality which may have been achieved by the events that preceded it.
While “Green Zone” succeeds in creating a certain level of tension during the scenes that focus on conversation rather than action, it’s more likely to give viewers a headache than it is to bring in “Bourne”-sized box office numbers.
Two-Disc Blu-Ray Review:
“Green Zone” may have been a bit of a box office flop, but you wouldn’t know it from Universal’s Blu-ray release, which boasts a video commentary with director Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon, as well as a picture-in-picture video track filled with behind-the-scenes footage and interviews. The two-disc effort also includes a short making-of (“Inside the Green Zone”), a featurette about Damon working alongside real soldiers ("Ready for Action"), a handful of deleted scenes, and a digital copy of the film.