One for: Green Zone
Yesterday, I was called for jury duty, but was let out early, allowing me to sneak in a matinee of Paul Greengrass’ Green Zone. I love going to matinees, which still carry the allure of playing hookie. At this particular showing, I was alone in the audience. When the middle-aged theater employee surveyed the near-empty house and said “Enjoy your movie,” I felt like an eccentric millionaire who demands private, mid-afternoon screenings of earnest Matt Damon films.
On to the movie: despite its horrible title, Green Zone is an engaging and plausible thriller, set in Baghdad during the U.S.’ chaotic search for WMDs in 2003. Damon plays an army chief who begins to question the Army’s intelligence reports after his unit fails to find any sign of weapon stashes in their assigned sites. Soon, he finds himself caught between a jaded CIA agent (Brendan Gleeson) and a self-assured beaurocrat (Greg Kinnear). When Damon asks Gleeson if they aren’t all on the same side, he tells him not to be naive.
Like Greengrass’ two previous fact-based thrillers (United 93 and Bloody Sunday), Green Zone aims to summon the chaos and competing interests at play in a pivotal moment in recent history. While hardly ground-breaking, it is interesting to see a war movie where the villain isn’t a terrorist or an insurgents, but a fellow American.
Judging from recent box office results, Americans are not clamoring for movies about the Iraq war (Hurt Locker, rather than generate imitators, has simply become the Iraq war movie). Green Zone is a decent addition to this new and mostly unpopular genre. My only bone to pick was with the characterization of Freddy, the local translator. Given the frantic pace of the film, I found it hard to believe this guy would be stopping Matt Damon every twenty minutes to lecture and generally enlighten whitey.
Brown-sidekick-issues notwithstanding, Green Zone largely succeeds in its goal of being a thriller about Important Things. Namely, why America went to war, and how we botched the peace. But given how it flopped, I think it’s safe to say most Americans would prefer to see our moral shortcomings treated in a fantastical setting, preferably with multicolored dragons and half-naked natives representing the rest of the world.