Saturday, March 06, 2010

Green Zone

This morning my movie class had a bonus screening of the action - thriller "Green Zone", starring Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear.


When an officer in the U.S. Army leads a team of inspectors to find Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, they stumble upon a massive cover - up implicating upper levels of the United States Government -- but will he be able to live long enough to reveal the truth?


In the Spring of 2003, Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Damon) is now taking his Inspectors on their third mission to uncover Saddam Hussein's dreaded Weapons of Mass Destruction -- and for the third straight time, they come up completely empty.  Putting both himself and his men in danger each time, he begins to question the accuracy of the intelligence reports that have been distributed to the troops and so informs his superiors ... only to be shouted down.  It is then that a CIA Agent who is an expert in Iraq intervenes and offers to help Miller in finding out just exactly how and why he and his men are constantly being sent on a wild goose chase with every mission. 

It is at this point when he is confronted by Lawrie Dayne (Amy Ryan), a reporter for the Wall Street Journal who has published many articles about a mysterious character -- code named "Magellan" -- considered a reliable Iraqi informant by the upper levels of The Pentagon.  She questions Miller about his involvement with the CIA and his interest in and knowledge of "Magellan", but he's not talking about his CIA connection any more than she's revealing her journalistic sources.  Meanwhile, Dayne concurrently pursues Pentagon Official Clark Poundstone (Kinnear), who seems to know all about this Magellan character -- she requests a meeting with this alleged informant, but he agrees only on the condition of anonymity.  While on another mission, Miller finds himself hot on the heels of Iraqi General Al-Rawi, The Jack of Clubs in the infamous High Value Target deck of cards.  Upon informing his CIA contact that he has information about Al-Rawi's whereabouts, he is ordered to find and capture Al-Rawi in order to bring him in to the CIA so that they can get to the bottom of things. 

Eventually, it becomes abundantly obvious to Miller that The United States Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency are at cross purposes -- the CIA looking to uncover the truth and the Pentagon being their obstacle to that end.  Nevertheless, Miller's patriotism forces him to find out just what exactly he is fighting for, if anything, so he sets out to find Al-Rawi and bring him in for questioning.  Upon reaching The General's Safe House, Al-Rawi's Security Team captures Miller, who is then interrogated by General Al-Rawi -- could The Good General turn out to be Magellan himself?  And if he is, who lied about the Weapons of Mass Destruction -- Al-Rawi or The Pentagon?  But regardless of whether or not Miller learns the answer, will he be able to escape with his life to reveal the truth to the world?


How you'll receive this movie is going to be based largely on what your political philosophy and predilections are -- and how tightly you cling to them.  Clearly, the director (Paul Greengrass, who directed "United 93" and directed Damon on both "The Bourne Supremacy" and "The Bourne Ultimatum") was trying to tell a story about what was behind the United States' involvement in Iraq -- or, at least, his opinion of it, at any rate.  While many of the events may be based on fact, most of the characters are purely fictional.  Is this a propaganda movie?  Well, the answer is just too subjective because it will be based on your own personal beliefs and loyalties. 

Perhaps a better, more appropriate question is whether or not the movie works as an action thriller.  I think it does, but to the extent that you believe that will depend, I would suspect, on to what degree you first buy into its premise.  If you're completely turned off to the possibility that there was a government conspiracy about the United States occupation of Iraq and in denial about the concept that there might be any internecine battles between factions of the U.S. government, then I seriously doubt that you'd be open to enjoying the pure movie going experience that this film offers.  With jerky camera movement and quick-cut editing, it certainly creates the verisimilitude of the chaos of war. 

As a movie -- if you can divorce yourself of your own perspective should it differ from that of the film -- I found that it definitely works as an action - thriller.  That said, however, knowing something of how things end, the experience of watching it can be somewhat depressing or, at the very least, rather discomforting.  Over the past few years, many of the movies that have been made about the Iraq war have not done terribly well from a commercial standpoint.  Maybe that's because they weren't very good movies to begin with.  Or maybe it's because people are just too uncomfortable with watching stories on this particular hot - button topic -- perhaps they just prefer escapist entertainment and that's why they stayed away in droves.  But with Matt Damon starring in this one, "Green Zone" might just have a chance at being one of the few that winds up being a hit at the box office.