Friday, March 25, 2016


I watched GREEN ZONE (2010) for the first time the other day. I knew nothing about this one going in but decided to take a chance on it. Based on the book IMPERIAL LIFE IN THE EMERALD CITY by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, this "ripped from the headlines" war film deals with the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the futile search for alleged weapons of mass destruction.

Matt Damon stars as U.S, Army Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller. His team is assigned various targets to strike in Baghdad that are supposed to be storehouses of WMDs. They never find anything in their raids and Miller begins to question the intel. What is the source of this erroneous information and why are American troops being asked to sacrifice their lives for nothing?

The source is someone within the now toppled government of Saddam Hussein code named "Magellan". This source has allegedly given the information to Pentagon official Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear), who in turn has leaked the material to Wall Street Journal reporter Lawrie Dayne (Amy Ryan). Miller soon discovers a source of his own in the form of "Freddy" (Khalid Abdalla), a Baghdad citizen who leads Miller and his men to a clandestine meeting of Hussein's men. Things start to go wrong and before long it's a race against time as Miller tries to rescue "Magellan" from the U.S. special forces and learn the truth about what he told Poundstone.

In the end, a new Iraqi leader is put in place, someone approved and sanctioned by the U.S. government. Poundstone is smug and proud of his accomplishment. He's helped depose a very bad man and start a plan to build a democracy in the shattered country. He leaves a meeting room to have a brief conversation with Miller and when he returns to the room, all hell has broken lose as the various Iraqi factions, Shiites, Sunnis, Bathists and others are screaming and shouting at each other, each sect demanding their own power and piece of the pie. It's reminiscent of the scene in LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962), where Lawrence has united the Arab tribes in Damascus only to see the coalition immediately devolve into chaos.

Directed by Paul Greengrass with a screenplay by Brian Helgeland, GREEN ZONE is a smart, compelling thriller, expertly blending real events with a plausible explanation of why the United States invaded Iraq when the official reason, weapons of mass destruction, clearly didn't exist. The cinematography by Barry Ackroyd has to be commended. The shaky, hand held camera work and frenetic editing (which I normally don't like), works to great advantage here, accurately and believably depicting the second-to-second chaos, confusion and insanity that is modern urban warfare.

While not a masterpiece on the level of THE HURT LOCKER (2008), GREEN ZONE is nonetheless a worthwhile film that delivers both action movie thrills and excitement and some harsh, sober and thought provoking  geo-political truths. Recommended.

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