Green Zone (2010)

3.5 stars

A political war thriller, handled deftly in the hands of Paul Greengrass.

Dir. Paul Greengrass
2010 | UK | Action/Drama/Thriller | 115 mins | 2.35:1 | English 
NC16 (passed clean) for violence and language

Cast: Matt Damon, Jason Isaacs, Greg Kinnear
Plot: Discovering covert and faulty intelligence causes a U.S. Army officer to go rogue as he hunts for Weapons of Mass Destruction in an unstable region.
Distributor: United International Pictures

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream


Review #495

(Reviewed in theatres – first published 11 Mar 2010)

Spoilers: No

One of the leading contemporary filmmakers of the last decade, Paul Greengrass’ directorial consistency is quite remarkable. He alternates between making crowd pleasers and critically-acclaimed pictures, and still manages to put a distinctive stamp onto each.

The evidence is there for all to see: Bloody Sunday (2002), The Bourne Supremacy (2004), United 93 (2006), The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), and now Green Zone.
His courage to tackle controversial issues has been rewarded with a directing Oscar nomination (for United 93) and a Golden Bear win (for Bloody Sunday) in Berlin.

Green Zone is the closest the British director has come to making a controversial crowd pleaser, merging the two sides of his filmmaking style in a bid to expand his range. The result is an excellent film but his range remains limited to his trademark “Greengrass” style – kinetic visuals shot in shaky cam and viscerally edited to give a nauseous, you-are-there kind of experience – one which he still does ever so expertly.

“At least tell me how it happened. How does this happ… how does someone like you write something that’s not true? Tell me.”

The director’s trademark style when coupled to John Powell’s strong rhythmic music creates a unique brand of action-suspense, allowing us to be engaged in a trance-like state.

The screenplay breaks down its seemingly complex plot into digestible pieces of information and throws in stereotypical characters like a probing journalist and a high-ranking governmental official who tries to stop the protagonist at all costs. Viewers will find the film easy to follow but intelligent enough to be thought-provoking.

As a Greengrass film, Green Zone does not disappoint. It is essentially a war film but with strong action-thriller elements. Set in Iraq in the context of the controversial war set forth by the Bush Administration after the 9/11 incident in 2001, the film questions the grounds in which America went to war.

The American government had confirmed the existence of WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction) sites in Iraq and successfully toppled Saddam’s regime but was left in the “shit hole” when they failed to restore peace. Rumors that the reason of WMD was a fabricated lie to get US military forces into Iraq and using it as a base to democratize Middle East were proven to be more true than false.

“It is not for you to decide what happens here.”

This sets up the plot of Green Zone which centers on Officer Miller’s (Matt Damon) personal mission to expose these lies after his team is unable to find WMD in sites reported by intelligence to contain them.

“The reasons we go to war always matter,” says Miller. He is smart and tactical; he is like Jason Bourne but in military disguise. His statement brings out the essence of Greengrass’ film, which questions the ethical behavior of the US government and puts the blame entirely on them.

Green Zone shares similar traits to Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar-winning bomb squad drama The Hurt Locker but goes one further by incorporating political themes. While the latter is a nerve-wreck of a cinematic experience about soldiers in constant life-and-death situations, Greengrass’ film resonates more strongly because it insists on asking why these soldiers are there in the first place. The answer could not have been any clearer.

Grade: B+




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