Green Zone is an ambitious political thriller, but in the end, it just doesn’t live up to the ambition. Matt Damon plays Miller, a captain of a unit sent out to find weapons of mass destruction in the early days of the Iraq War. This isn’t a movie that rewrites history, so that the hero (Miller) finds what he is looking for. This is a movie about the inexplicable reasons to go into war in the first place.
The whole reason that the U.S. invaded Iraq was because the government believed that Saddam Hussein was hording and developing wmd’s and that they were a threat to U.S. security. We now know that no weapons of that kind were in Iraq. Miller is a good soldier that seeks truth and believes that the reasons to go to war are extremely important.
The movie, on a whole, isn’t bad. Matt Damon is fantastic as usual. He brings an immediacy and urgency to this role that wouldn’t have been captured with another, but that’s not enough to make this movie complete. The supporting characters were not utilized to great effect. Take Amy Ryan for example. She is an amazing actress that is able to convey depth of emotion with a single look, yet she’s only in a couple of scenes and is given absolutely nothing to do. She plays a critical role in the film, but she is not given the attention it deserves. The whole movie is like that. It focuses on one thing, when it would better serve the story to focus on another.
The problem really stems from Paul Greengrass’ direction more than it does the script by Brian Helgeland. Greengrass at times plays this more as Bourne 4 than a smart political thriller. He shoots every scene with a shaky hand held camera that has worked to tremendous effect in his previous efforts (Bloody Sunday, United 93, and The Bourne Supremacy), but it isn’t necessary here. He also scores this movie with pulsating and exciting music even though nothing much is happening on screen. The one action scene at the end of the movie works incredibly well, but it almost seems out of place considering what this movie was in the previous ninety minutes. The good thing about the direction: it holds the audience suspended waiting for something to happen. The audience will rarely, if ever, be bored by this movie.
The movie really is about the search for truth and about how much trust should be put in authority. The government screwed up. It’s as simple as that. We know that, so is this movie saying anything profound? Not really, but it does really put an emphasis on checking the story, about finding out the facts for yourself and about not following things blindly. It’s a bit heavy handed in its message, but it does stem from true events, even though this is total fiction, and that makes it worthwhile.
This is definitely a movie that’s much smarter than your average wide release and that’s refreshing to see, but it’s a shame that it really has an identity crisis. It doesn’t know what it wants to be, but that shouldn’t deter you from seeing it. The parts that work, work well and the disjointed parts are still interesting to watch.