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Had Green Zone been released earlier this century when the world was still in the throes of Bushism, it might have been considered brave stuff; taking place in the earliest days of the Iraq War when regardless of factual evidence, much of the public and even those brave soldiers involved believed in the fabricated reasons that justified sending US troops to war in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Would that this film had hit screens before the arrival of new era and sparkly new president, this drama around the discovery of the governmentís great lie might have created far more thrills than the tepid, warmed-over chases and wartime action seen here.

Chief Miller is fed up.  After three arduous and life-threatening assignments, his missions have turned up none of the weapons of mass destruction that are the whole basis for his troopsí dangerous tours in the desert.  When Miller asks the obvious questions about the intelligence that is sending his men on these wild goose chases, he is shut down by higher command with some ominous insinuations.  Millerís refusal to accept the repeated bad intel that keeps putting his companyís lives in peril brings him to the notice of a disgusted CIA agent, who knows far more than the good soldier is being told.  Itís this agent that begins Miller on another mission to find out the real reason he and his men are risking their lives in Iraq and why certain other factions of the government will do anything to keep him from finding out.

Utilising the shaky-cam style that has become his signature and has been co-opted by more modern directors than there is Dramamine, Paul Greengrass, helmer of the popular Bourne Identity {2004} and Bourne Ultimatum {2007}, goes over the top - even for him - with the nausea-causing cinematography.  Hand-to-hand combat shots are completely indiscernible and chase scenes lose any intensity they mightíve had.  The compelling thing about the handheld camera use here is that it seems so throwaway and token, as if Greengrass knew the audience would expect it and so here it is, utterly uninspired, much like the rest of the film.  There is so little ingenuity in Green Zone that between the dull-witted timing and the completely lackluster action and performances itís impossible to figure why Greengrass bothered at all.  Everything about this film feels like Greengrass and the assembled cast is treading water, perhaps until the next Jason Bourne film is conceived or another such goldmine comes along.  This is particularly surprising as the screenplay is written by the occasionally brilliant Brian Helgeland {L.A. Confidential (1997), Mystic River (2002), A Knights Tale (! - 2001)}.  Perhaps itís an exercise to keep their hands in, but whatever the cause this film feels half-baked and lazy.  There arenít even enough stunning moments for me to recommend this as a mindless popcorn actioner and its ham-fisted politics are indeed mindless.  It certainly doesnít take a poly-sci major to figure that much of this script is lifted directly from the real-life events that revealed that the military was indeed on the worldís deadliest bug hunt; the WMDís so often claimed as the basis for our invasion of Iraq had never existed there.  Judith Miller, the infamous New York Times journalist whose articles backed up the Bush governmentís claim to the contrary and allowed the public to believe there was some legitimate reason for US involvement, is present here in the very name of our protagonist and in a clumsily inserted female reporter whose presence is pointless other than to further prove what a lying snake her Pentagon contact is.  The fact that Greg Kinnear was playing him should have been enough. 

Matt Damon who uses monotone intensity with great success as Jason Bourne, isnít so lucky here.  In the filmís first scenes, we are meant to believe Miller is a soldier so revered by his men they would go rogue alongside him, yet thereís nothing in Damonís manner to give us that impression.  Itís hard to blame him because Miller is written with all the depth of a sheet of typing paper and plods along with no emotion or nuance.  Brendan Gleeson, using an unlocatable American accent, could have played the skeptical CIA agent in his sleep and appears to be doing just that.  The only ones who look like theyíre even trying are Khalid Abdalla as an Iraqi citizen who becomes Millerís reluctant informant/Gunga Din/symbol for the poor, suffering Iraqis, and Jason Isaacs as the pragmatic Special Forces commander who answers only to the Pentagon even if it means putting one behind the ear his fellow soldiers.  Besides a couple of picturesque views of the desert and one flaming helicopter shot out of the sky, there nothing to recommend this film visually, expect maybe for Isaacs in a full leatherman mustache that would make Hulk Hogan jealous employing some homoerotic full-contact search techniques on Matt Damon.  Yeah, this is what I was reduced to, it was that dull.  There were plot holes so huge and patently silly that they brought forth actual laughter from the audience and everything here is written in such an indolent shorthand that even for folks who were against US involvement in Iraq the Bush lied/the government is eeevil message gets tiresome.  Itís that laziness that Green Zone suffers most from and the result is an unfortunate missed opportunity for Damon, Greengrass and all involved.

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

March 12th, 2010

 

 

 

 

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(Courtesy of  Universal Pictures)

 

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