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Green Zone: A Review

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The other afternoon, the wife and I got the chance to see the first movie together in a theatre since Serenity. The children have put a damper on our social life together, but we finally have local friends who are willing to babysit and who did a great job.

We went to see Green Zone, starring Matt Damon and directed by Paul Greengrass, the duo that brought us the last two Bourne movies.

Matt Damon plays CWO Roy Miller, leader of a Mobile Exploitation Team, searching for Weapons of Mass Destruction a month into the Iraq War. Frustrated with constantly coming up empty, even with “verified” intelligence, Miller begins to dig deeper, allying with veteran CIA operative Marty Brown and opposing neo-con Pentagon star Clark Poundstone.

In general, this was a great thriller and good actioner with perhaps just a bit too much politics thrown in there.

To summarize, the conspiracy is adequately complex and important to make the stakes high. The Miller character is perhaps a little too “white hat,” and—unfortunately—the villains veer a little too much into the moustache-twirling variety. This is easy to overlook, though, since all the performances deliver the goods, the action is tense and exciting—even though it is in the Greengrass shakey-cam style of the last two Bourne movies—and though complex, the plot is not too labyrinthine to lose viewers.

The whole WMD issue is bound to be contentious, given that the movie basically says that the US government knowingly lied about WMDs. The real facts are not so clear cut. The thing is, I don’t think it’s possible not to question the WMD justification, given the paucity of actual WMD finds. Still, I would have liked the villains to maybe justify their actions a bit better. The actual poor intelligence seems a case of trusting a single source too much. We are all susceptible to confirmation bias, in which the information our mind receives is perceived in a way to confirm already accepted beliefs. But it seems the writer and/or director wanted something a little easier to condemn and revile.

If one can get around the political message, the rest of the movie is fun, tense, and exciting when needed. Sure, there’s a few heavy-handed messages thrown in there, but the Freddy character is great as an Iraqi everyman. Maybe Miller is so white hat so as to portray the USA as it sees itself. This allows Freddy to be the voice of the Iraqi street. That interpretation kind of works.
I think if you enjoyed the last two Bourne movies, you’ll like this one. Miller is not superhuman like Bourne, in fact he gets his ass handed to him in the first instance of fisticuffs. He is smart, capable and determined. The CIA operative he allies himself with, Marty, is seen as a dinosaur by Poundstone, portraying a chickenhawk bureaucrat trying to be a power behind the throne, and ignoring anything that doesn’t agree with his view of the way the world works.

I’m not about to say that this wasn’t exactly how it fell out, but it is certainly interesting that the military guy and the CIA spook are suddenly the good guys. It wasn’t that long ago that the CIA were always the bad guys. The situation as represented in Green Zone is certainly believable—as is, unfortunately, that handlebar moustache on Jason Isaacs’ Special Forces badass (hello to Jason Isaacs).

All in all, I was very pleased with the movie. My wife and I both really enjoyed it. The movie delivered as a thriller with a fair amount of action. I’d give it 4 out of 5 SF moustaches.