Director Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon’s latest collaboration, Green Zone, is a fictional thriller centering on one man’s quest to uncover the truth behind the missing WMD in Iraq.
It opens with Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Damon) and his team involved in a fierce firefight to gain access to a suspected chemical weapons storage site which turns out to be a building filled with disused and rusting machinery. Miller suspects that there must be something behind their persistently faulty intel, especially when officials claim that it comes from a highly classified insider source.
He gets his chance to uncover the truth when an Iraqi local, improbably named Freddie, gives him information on a meeting involving one of Saddam’s top generals Al-Rawi. Al-Rawi escapes, but it soon becomes evident that he is at the center of a huge conspiracy concerning WMD that involves the Pentagon. What results is a massive manhunt for Al-Rawi by individuals both attempting to hide and uncover the truth.
Damon is effective enough as Miller and clearly channels his previous role as Jason Bourne in depicting a character that is brutally single-minded. While this might have worked in the context of Bourne’s quest for revenge, there is more than a little implausibility in a career army man like Miller ditching the chain of command, collaborating with the CIA and the press, and essentially going rogue in a bloody-minded attempt to ferret out the truth.
Visually the filmmakers have created a highly realistic depiction of an Iraq torn apart by war, with scenes of broken freeways and utter devastation contrasting sickeningly with bikini clad women being ogled by beer swilling soldiers lounging about in coalition HQ (the Green Zone of the title). Greengrass also maintains his signature visual style, with gritty and realistic fight scenes, and a ceaselessly roving camera reminiscent of an embedded journalist caught in the thick of the action.
It is unfortunate that the authenticity of the action sequences stands in contrast to the second half of a movie, where the conspiracy theories culminating in an extended hunt for Al-Rawi are less compelling that it should be. The pace never lags, but where its source material is compelling political commentary, this movie mimics the worst of George W. Bush: shock and awe.
Caleb Liu has always aspired to run a private movie club where we'll catch all the films that we should be watching. His film blog is at cityflickers.blogspot.com