15 March 2010

Review: "Green Zone"

Matt Damon's talent as an actor has always been in question, in my opinion. He seems to play the same roles with the same emotional range. Invictus was his chance to show the world his true acting talent. He came away with a Best Supporting Actor nomination, which I found undeserving. Green Zone reunites Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass, director of The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum. Both films were enjoyable and well made, and both financially and critically successful. Green Zone is advertised as companion to the Bourne franchise and this affects the film negatively. Jason Bourne was a spy and the film was about uncovering his true identity, but Green Zone is a film about the war in Iraq and has few similarities beyond the use of a hand-held camera and the disconnected acting of Matt Damon. The film does co-star two wonderful actors, Brendan Gleeson and Amy Ryan (from The Wire). The film is said to be inspired by the book Imperial Life in the Emerald City by Rajiv Chandrasekaran. Green Zone was exactly the film I expected it to be: an average thriller with choppy editing that, at times, made me feel nauseous (and not just due to Matt Damon's attempt at acting).

The film is set in 2003 in post-invasion Iraq and stars Matt Damon as Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller. Miller and his squad investigate a warehouse reported to be concealing Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and find nothing. He begins to doubt the intelligence reports. Meanwhile Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear), a member of Pentagon Special Intelligence, is welcoming Ahmed Zubadi (Raad Rawi) to Baghdad, in hopes of instilling Zubadi as the head of Iraq's new democracy. Poundstone is interrogated by Lawrie Dawes, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, and she begins asking questions about Magellan, the source of information for the WMD locations in Iraq. Later, while investigating another suspect location, Miller meets an Iraqi civilian named Freddie (Khalid Abdalla) who informs him that General Al-Rawi (Yigal Naor) is meeting with his allies nearby. Al-Rawi is one of the many power players of the Iraqi army that have gone into hiding. Miller and his team are unable to apprehend Al-Rawi, but they do come into possession of a notebook that contains the locations of all Al-Rawi's safe houses. During a debriefing Miller voices his concerns about the existence of WMDs in Iraq and is approached by Martin Brown (Brendan Gleeson), a member of the CIA that believes the search for WMD is just a cover-up for a bigger issue. Miller begins following leads and finds himself going down a path that leads to some incredible revelations.

Green Zone is a film that, like Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island, has the right elements to make a decent thriller but gets lost in itself. The characters on the periphery (Greg Kinnear, Amy Ryan, Brendann Gleeson) are seriously underused. The film depends too much on Matt Damon and suffers because he is unable the carry the emotion of the film himself. I understand why Paul Greengrass chooses to use a hand-held camera. It gives the film a more intense and gritty quality. I just feel that it would work better if wide shots were included and it was not always necessary to zoom in and out during a single conversation. Roger Ebert said that the often distracting QuesyCam style of Paul Greengrass did not bother him during Green Zone because he became so involved in the story. I disagree. I lost focus because the camera moves too quickly and angles changed too drastically.

My rating: 2 stars out of 4.

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