Matt Damon, writer Brian Helgeland and director Paul Greengrass, having previously worked together on The Bourne Supremacy, reunite for this fictional take on the notoriously failed search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
Based on the non-fiction book, Imperial Life In The Emerald City, Green Zone takes its name from the heavily fortified International Zone of Iraq, a 10km square section in the centre of Baghdad. Matt Damon plays US soldier Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller, whose task it is, along with his squad, to search for WMD and chemical weapons, based on intelligence from a mysterious source known only as ‘Magellen’.
Unfortunately, only a select few know who this man is, and in spite of search after search turning up no evidence of WMD, Miller’s superiors insist the intel is good. Seemingly representing the entire US government is Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear), who knows full well that no there are no WMD, but whose job it is, essentially, to find justification for an unjustified war. Unsurprisingly, the small matter of the truth is a mere inconvenience to him.
Of course, Matt Damon, being the hero, won’t stand by and let this happen, and he sets about uncovering the reality of what’s going on in Iraq, aided along the way by an American newspaper reporter, a CIA agent and a one-legged Iraqi man.
That’s a rather simplistic account of the movie but, to be honest, the film itself is a dramatically reduced version of events in the Middle East, which seems to boil an entire war down to three or four guys not liking each other very much.
Essentially, it’s an action movie. To be specific, it’s a Bourne movie, but set in Iraq and with a bit more political preaching than normal. Things move along at a pretty good pace, the attention to detail in the military aspects is impressive and the majority of the performances are good, although Brendon Gleeson’s American accent seems to yearn for Dublin, taking brief trips there at the end of his sentences.
In terms of entertainment, then, Green Zone does its job adequately, but it’s in its political thriller aspirations that it runs into problems. Although the pacing of the script is reasonable, the preaching tone and the ridiculous factual inaccuracies sit uncomfortably with the issues it’s trying to discuss.
What it all comes down to is the USA and its allies invaded Iraq even though they knew it didn’t have any WMD, and that, in the end, the running of the country should be left for Iraqis to decide.
Why, though, do we need a fictional Hollywood movie to tell us what we already know? Those who believe the war was justified are unlikely to be convinced otherwise by this film, and those who believe it wasn’t don’t need this to vindicate them.
Take away the condescending preaching, and you’re left with a very average Hollywood action movie. At £9.99 from iTunes, we wouldn’t recommend buying Green Zone, but the £3.49 rental fee is reasonable enough for a movie that’s probably only worth watching once, unless you really like seeing soldiers riding around in Humvees and shooting big guns.
Green Zone is available as a download now from iTunes.