With Green Zone, versatile director Paul Greengrass has attempted to splice the realist drama of 2006’s United 93 and his earlier work for television with the multiplex-filling action of the Bourne series.
Still sporting his Jason Bourne haircut, Matt Damon stars as Roy Miller, an officer in the US army lumbered with the thankless task of hunting down Weapons of Mass Destruction in occupied Iraq. After yet another weapon site is revealed to be little more than a warehouse full of bird droppings, Miller begins to suspect that the WMD he’s seeking may not exist at all.
After an encounter with dishevelled CIA agent Martin Brown (Brendan Gleeson), Miller gradually learns that the drip feed of WMD intelligence he’s been receiving has a decidedly dodgy source. Following a trail of clues with the help of Iraqi local Freddie, Miller soon finds himself on the wrong side of shifty Pentagon bureaucrat Poundstone, played with sinister charm by Greg Kinnear.
The upshot of Green Zone – that Iraq’s WMD never existed – is, of course, a foregone conclusion, but Greengrass’s handling of the subject, shot with his usual hyperactive immediacy, makes the journey a more interesting one than it might otherwise be.
Green Zone’s attempt to bring the political situation in Iraq to a popcorn audience is an admirable one, and for the most part successful. The post-bombing devastation of central Baghdad (the Green Zone of the movie’s title) is replicated seamlessly, and the cast is uniformly excellent. Damon is perfectly cast as the single-minded soldier on a mission, Khalid Abdalla is superbly sympathetic as Freddie, and Jason Isaacs is barely recognisable as the gruff, brutal Delta Force operative with Miller squarely in his sights.
In terms of its action scenes, Green Zone is on a par with Greengrass’s Bourne movies, building up to a spectacular climactic pursuit through the darkened streets of Baghdad. Brian Helgeland should also be commended for crafting a script (based on journalist Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s non-fiction novel Imperial Life In The Emerald City) which tells a potentially confusing story with clarity, though there are certain scenes that feel extraneous, including a tiresome, lengthy exchange between Miller and a Wall Street Journal correspondent, and a concluding scene whose line “the reason we go to war always matters” simply preaches at the audience.
Nevertheless, Green Zone wraps up a thought-provoking examination of Iraq’s occupation inside a taut, kinetically-charged thriller. And while Greengrass’ film failed to make much financial impact at the cinema, it’s well worth discovering on DVD.
Green Zone’s small selection featurettes, amounting to just under 20 minutes running time, go behind the scenes to show how locations in Spain and Morocco were dressed to look like a war torn Iraq, and look at how Matt Damon prepared for his role as Miller. There’s an additional 12 minutes of deleted scenes, and a feature commentary where Greengrass and Damon provide a lively discussion about the film’s production.
Green Zone is out now and available from the Den Of Geek Store.