Rating: 2 out of 4 stars
Running time: 115 minutes
Starring: Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Brendan Gleeson and Amy Ryan.
Movies of political intrigue often are centered on a controversial issue. Although the subject matter of “Green Zone” is based on something that has raised a lot of eyebrows, it plays it disappointingly safe, especially considering that it takes place in the middle of a war.
As American troops enter Iraq in 2003, there is confusion and chaos on both sides. Leading a search for Weapons of Mass Destruction is Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Matt Damon). Miller is dedicated to his job and gung ho about getting the task done as quickly and efficiently, but there’s a problem: None of the information he’s receiving adds up.
Miller’s squad continually turns up nothing in their search, and he’s starting to question the sources. He starts to get some conflicting answers from a CIA operative (Brendan Gleeson) and a Pentagon Special Intelligence representative (Greg Kinnear).
An inquiry from an American journalist (Amy Ryan) has Miller wondering if there’s more to the absence of evidence, but when an Iraq native (Khalid Abdalla) comes forth claiming to have additional information, the soldier may have even more on his hands than he thought.
Damon gives a command showing as Miller, whose sense of duty clashes with his desire to learn the truth. And he’s willing to go through hell for it. Also on a manhunt is Ryan as a Wall Street Journal reporter Lawrie Dayne, whose lengthy look into Iraqi affairs has come to a halt as she searches for the true identity of an informant going by the name “Magellan.”
Gleeson is resolute as Martin Brown, the head of CIA’s Baghdad unit, skeptical about the true intentions of American interests in the country. On the other end of the spectrum is Kinnear, predictably smarmy as Clark Poundstone, a Washington yes-man catering to the higher-ups of both American politicians and regional bigwigs.
Just seeing the Club Med accommodations where he centers his operations is sickening when compared to the utter disarray of the city streets, as Iraqi men, women and children struggle to find amenities as basic as clean water.
Although its presentation would have you think otherwise, there’s not much subtlety to be found in this international thriller inspired by Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s 2006 exposé “Imperial Life in the Emerald City.” Brian Helgeland’s screenplay doesn’t exactly provide a sense of equilibrium, with the dialogue worthy of a collective scoff from the audience.
The direction by Paul Greengrass is no help either, though he does make good use of the Spanish and Moroccan shooting locations that fill in for Baghdad. But it’s hard to appreciate the scenery, given the unceasing motion of the filmmaker’s patented use of Shakicam, which he used to great effect in “United 93” and “The Bourne Ultimatum.” A little of this cinematography goes a long way, as the amount of content that doesn’t involve a jiggling camera shot could be measured in milliseconds.
Granted, it works for the more intense action sequences, but for everything else, it’s just nauseating.
The biggest problem of “Green Zone” is that it barely deviates from the slew of features focused on the ethics of American involvement in the Middle East, including “Body of Lies,” “The Kingdom,” “Traitor” and more. An intelligent examination of this subject would be fine, but it instead remains the worst kind of soapbox pontification that reaffirms so many people’s distaste for Hollywood.