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Hal2001 03-13-2010 08:18 PM

Paul Greengrass's Green Zone
Here's the link to the published version of the review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:

Green Zone (2010)

Paul Greengrass's "Green Zone" has a fascinating premise which some may claim to be factual, though the film is apparently not based on a true story. Imagine that the war in Iraq was based off of fabricated intelligence. Imagine the only reason that the US went to war there was because a top official in the CIA lied about the existence of WMD....despite being told by a top Iraqi general that there were none.

Roy Miller (Matt Damon) is the leader of a squad whose job it is to go to different locations and secure WMD based off of intel from a classified source known only as "Magellan." After securing three targets in a row and not finding anything, he begins to question the legitimacy of the intel and even brings it up during a briefing, but all his superiors do is assure him that the facts are straight.

While on another mission, Miller is approached by an Iraqi citizen, Freddy (Khalid Abdalla), who tells him that a meeting is happening nearby that has several of Saddam's officials in attendance. Deciding to trust him, Miller takes his men to the locations and discovers that the meeting was being attended by Saddam's top general, Al Rawi (Yigal Naor). So begins Miller's journey to discover the truth behind the bad intel, but he is not alone. Also helping him out is a CIA operative named Martin Brown (Brendan Gleeson), who feels it's a bad mistake to not allow the Iraqi army to help hold the country together, and a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, Lawrie Dayne (Amy Ryan), who is also trying to get to the heart of the "Magellan" mystery.

Director Paul Greengrass has a tendency to use the same kind of camera movements for a majority of his films which include "The Bourne Supremacy," "The Bourne Ultimatum," and "United 93." It's a jittery kind of camera movement that has been nicknamed "queasycam," but Greengrass uses it with purpose and to great effect. The "queasy" part probably comes from filmmakers who overdo it slightly in films like "Cloverfield." This kind of movement helps put you right in the story much more than a steadycam would for this type of film. Here, like in Greengrass's other films, it adds more tension to the situation by making it more realistic.

Matt Damon must certainly be used to the style by now after having done three Bourne films. Many people have been saying that this film is like having Jason Bourne in Iraq, and it's partially true, but Damon is able to distinguish the character of Roy Miller enough to where you won't be constantly reminded of his other role. Damon turns in a good performance as the man who is determined to uncover the truth and expose those who are responsible.

It certainly is an interesting setup and will probably gratify those who felt that the whole WMD matter was just a made-up excuse to start a war in Iraq. Perhaps the truth will never be known about it, but this film has fun with its "what ifs" by turning the possibility into an intense thrillride that hardly slows down for a single moment.

What stops it from being great though were a couple of problems in the third act. Instead of resolving the story with the full intensity it had built up throughout, it fizzles out with an overlong footchase that felt like it lasted a good 20 minutes. Then this footchase concludes with a strange, senseless ending that came out of nowhere. It's like the writer, Brian Helgeland, just didn't know how to finish the sequence.

The actual ending of the film is quite gratifying and wraps things up rather nicely. It doesn't show the full result of what happens, but merely implies what will happen. It doesn't really matter if you're into the politics or not. "Green Zone" simply offers up a fun, entertaining ride that has you on the edge of your seat throughout most of the film. If you are into the politics though, you may just find it a little more interesting. 3/4 stars.

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