Review by Jack Foley
IT WOULD be easy to label Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass’ third collaboration as “Bourne in Iraq” – certainly the trailers make it look that way.
But while there are Bourne traits, such as the brutally efficient, hand-held style of the action and the conspiracy underpinning the central story, Green Zone is a very different beast.
Rather, it combines Greengrass’ penchant for delivering breakneck, blockbusting cinema with hard-hitting insights into real events. Though a fictional story, it unfolds against the backdrop of the early days of the invasion of Iraq, and therefore serves as more of a companion piece to the director’s own United 93.
Damon plays an army warrant officer named Roy Miller who is posted in Iraq to justify the US invasion by finding weapons of mass destruction (or WMDs).
But as his search continues to prove fruitless, he begins to ask questions and finds himself caught in the middle of a three-way tussle between Brendan Gleeson’s conscientious CIA spook, Greg Kinnear’s shadowy Pentagon official and Khallid Abdalla’s outraged Iraqi sympathiser.
Without knowing who can be trusted, Miller soon finds his own life in danger.
Based on Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s novel Imperial Life In The Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone, Greengrass’ movie successfully combines crowd-pleasing elements with a realistic backdrop.
We may know the outcome, but Greengrass’ breathless style of direction guarantees that we become caught up in the chase, while Damon’s engaging Miller offers an endearing, and suitably confused and frustrated, presence.
He’s not quite as efficient as Bourne, either… constantly making the wrong decisions and placing himself in unnecessary danger.
But with heavyweight support coming from the likes of Gleeson, Kinnear, Jason Isaacs (as a ruthless Special Ops bully) and Amy Ryan (as a probing reporter), it’s little wonder he finds it hard to distinguish friend from foe.
The questions that are posed, meanwhile, still have social relevance, particularly given that the film has come out just as The Chilcot inquiry begins to wind down, and days after The Hurt Locker swept the Academy Awards.
Ironically, Hurt Locker cinematographer [and Oscar nominee] Barry Ackroyd lends the film an extra level of authenticity, thanks to his trademark hand-held style and close-up view of the action.
Green Zone, as you’d expect from this filmmaking team, has an immediacy that thrusts you into the heart of the action, as well as an intelligence that knows how to treat a difficult subject matter with the respect it deserves.
The more sceptical might argue that the film’s approach is heavy-handed and almost naive at times (particularly in its outcome), but Greengrass is clearly keen for his movie to be seen by as wide an audience as possible, mindful of the box office failure of the majority of its Iraq-based predecessors (Hurt Locker included).
So, as high quality entertainment mixed with socially aware themes goes, Green Zone is articulate enough to kickstart the type of debates that Greengrass is seeking, while providing audiences with the big screen thrills and spills required from this type of blockbuster.
It’s action-packed, provocative movie-making that’s too good to miss from another of contemporary cinema’s finest actor-director partnerships.
Running time: 115mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: July 12, 2010
- Buy it on DVD (Amazon)
- Buy it on Blu-ray (Amazon)
- Read our review
- Matt Damon interview
- Paul Greengrass interview
- Green Zone Photo Gallery