Cornwall reviewer Stuart McColl takes on Green Zone, Paul Greengrass’s foray into an action investigation of the Iraq War.
Paul Greengrass’s Green Zone is an Iraq War film that differs from other, more recent attempts, instead choosing to focus on the politics and the ambiguities surrounding the war rather than the effects of the conflict on its participants. The opening scenes are quick to back this up, intense in feel they create a deeply impending atmosphere.
The first dialogue we hear between various US soldiers reveals that there aren’t enough men on the ground, something we know now to be a recurring problem. There’s confusion and hysteria among both sides and this is reflected in the handheld, quick-cut style that the film is shot in.
Matt Damon plays Officer Roy Miller, a man tasked with leading the search for WMDs during the early days of the Iraq war. After visits to two proclaimed WMD sites turn up nothing but unnecessary casualties, Miller questions the intelligence given to them by an apparently ‘reliable’ source.
These questions lead him down a long and labyrinthine path where nothing is as black-and-white as it seems -a choice excerpt from the film has Poundstone, a Pentagon intelligence officer (Greg Kinnear) telling Miller not to be naive when Miller asks: “I thought we were all on the same side?” Miller links up along the way with a seemingly embittered CIA middle-east expert, Martin Brown (Brendan Gleeson) and a reporter from the Wall Street Journal, Lawrie Dayne (Amy Ryan).
Each has their own reasons for wanting to pursue the truth regarding the WMDs, and the war itself.
Brian Helgeland’s script (inspired by Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s Imperial Life in the Emerald City) does a perfunctory job of making simple a complicated set of affairs. It hurtles along at great speed and is laudable for never pushing the Iraqis into the background to make way for the quarrels and infighting of the Americans.
Comparisons with the Bourne series will obviously be made, but are rather unjust in this case. Green Zone is extremely light on action and Roy Miller is certainly no heir to the throne of Jason Bourne. Green Zone will instead be remembered for being the first film of its generation to tackle the fighting in office rather than the fighting on the ground.