Posted by: Joe Eds | March 15, 2010

Green Zone

Both Jeff and I saw it last week. We both agreed it was a well-made, well-cut, well-shot, well-acted thriller with very few speed bumps or drags and some great chase sequences. However, we both agreed we felt underwhelmed at the same time. What gives? I wish it was as simple as “this one speech blows it” or “this one character is completely unbelievable” or “it’s just Jason Bourne in Iraq (it’s not)” unfortunately it’s a mixed bag because the filmmakers made a very, very early decision to fictionalize and conjure up a thriller plot inside a real situation – the American invasion of Iraq in March 2003. And while they have every right to do that, the film is interjected with characters and scenarios that are very much based on real people and events and one can’t help but feel the “convenience” of doing so.  The entire plot revolves around one Army captain (Damon) trying to figure out why aren’t there any WMD’s yet found. There’s a rogue CIA agent (Brendan Gleeson), a callous Defense Department stooge (Greg Kinnear) and a wronged reporter (Amy Ryan) that all lead Damon on his quest to discover that he (and the rest of the country) were falsely convinced on the main reason we invaded that country. Guess what? Most people paying to see that film already knew that, so the film’s final reveal doesn’t really pack a punch.

Again it’s a double-edged sword because everything you see in the film. The procedures, what the “green zone” is like inside, how a captain leads a patrol into an non-secure area, the cells inside Abu Ghraib, all that feels d0cu-realistic. Director Paul Greengrass even smartly cast many non-actors in roles as soldiers. And that’s all great, but if we’re not sucked up in the story it doesn’t really matter.

One reviewer summarizes the film’s pluses and minuses much more than I can, and that is Erik Lundegaard. His review best represents my thoughts and feelings, including the mystery behind the film’s title Green Zone, when literally one scene takes place there.

Since most of the movie takes place outside the green zone, why call it “Green Zone”? A possible answer, possibly in the source material—Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s book, “Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone”—is the idea that the green zone isn’t just a location but a state of mind. It’s the safe place you go when unpleasant facts and realities become overwhelming; where you believe what you want to believe. Many Americans spent the eight years of the Bush administration there. Many haven’t left.

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