I'm going out on a limb here.
Most of you don't actually care about "the truth" when it comes to your movies. Oh sure, you care about war and justice, the economy and even how global affairs impacts your daily life.
The truth? Not so much.
So, the premise behind Green Zone, the latest collaboration between director Paul Greengrass and his Bourne films star Matt Damon, is likely to not matter to you all that much.
The simple "truth," if you will, is that if you enjoyed the Bourne films there's a darn good chance you'll find yourself also enjoying Green Zone, an action-packed Iraq war-centered film very loosely based upon Rajiv Chandrasekaran's Imperial Life in the Emerald City. In Green Zone, Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Matt Damon) is plopped down in Iraq with the stated mission of finding Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction (WMD's).
By now, you likely are already aware of how this search fleshed itself out. If you're not, please get your head out of your ass and pay some attention to the world around you. Unlike, say, a Quentin Tarantino, there's no major revisionist history here in which the American military does, in fact, discover the weapons and, thus, redeems the mission.
Nope, at least in this case, Greengrass and screenwriter Brian Helgeland stick with the facts as Miller's inability to find WMD's leads him to an increasingly ethical dilemma that impacts his ability to function as an American soldier on an assignment in which he's increasingly unable to believe.
What is the truth? Does it really matter?
It should be noted that Green Zone is not a documentary and should not be viewed as such. Greengrass and Helgeland, despite reportedly being inspired by Chandrasekaran's book, are not assembling an insightful expose' or revealing, Michael Moore-style action flick. They are, on the other hand, trying to create an action flick that is at least, to a certain degree, grounded squarely within the grim realities of the war in Iraq. Greengrass's dedication to authenticity has included the use of multiple military consultants on the film and even works with cinematographer Barry Ayckroyd (The Hurt Locker).
Green Zone is an action flick, and the combination of Greengrass and star Matt Damon has long been proven to be an exciting and entertaining combination. Green Zone is, for the most part, a reasonably exciting and entertaining film (though it certainly falls short of the Bourne films). Greengrass infuses Green Zone with a stress and a palpable tension that fuels the film, no small task given the overall familiarity of the story itself. While he plays loose with small facts, for example changing the name of a particularly misguided reporter's newspaper from the New York Times to the Wall Street Journal, he's admirably trying to create a film that is both exciting in the Hollywood action flick sense and yet thrillingly based upon the inherently thrilling real life experiences in Iraq.
He very nearly succeeds, mostly on the strength of Damon's winning performance and his own innate ability to frame an action sequence with his trademark hand-held shots and nearly poetic editing. Damon is, at his very essence, a believable good guy and that quality comes in handy as Miller, a man who believes that war should have a purpose and their mission should have an answerable "Why?" It is not enough for Miller that they are on "assignment," it must be an assignment with just cause and he's willing to go renegade to uncover the truth.
Of course, it is that "renegade" nature that decreases the film's believability. However, it adds an intriguing and appealing quality to a character that Damon fully embodies. Miller ends up working cooperatively with an equally questioning CIA agent (Brendan Gleeson) and the aforementioned reporter (Amy Ryan), who eventually sees the error of her ways (and reporting!). His chief nemesis, a Pentagon loyalist (Greg Kinnear) who is seemingly blinded by both patriotism and duty.
The biggest problem that seems to be facing Green Zone is that, despite his best effort, Greengrass can't quite balance the film's hardcore action scenes with his desire to tell the story. There are intensely satisfying scenes in Green Zone and there are scenes that will leave you scratching your head going "Honestly, who cares?" There are moments, as well, when the cast seems equally confused about the film's goings on and Gleeson, in particular, seems surprisingly disinterested in the entire affair as if he either can't grasp Greengrass's style of filmmaking or hasn't quite tapped into his character.
Either way, when folks like Gleeson and Ryan are onscreen the film drags considerably.
Still, it seems inevitable that fans of the previous Greengrass/Damon collaborations will be a fan of Green Zone, a film that features enough of the style and personality of their previous work together to please the masses who went to see the films.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic