Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Green Zone (2010)

Directed by Paul Greengrass
Starring: Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Khalid Abdalla, Brendan Gleeson
Grade: C+

Paul Greengrass' history with the docu-drama style of filmmaking (Bloody Sunday, United 93) is evident in Green Zone, and he's clearly taking steps to distance the project from political-thriller predecessors, placing trusty Bourne action man Matt Damon (Miller) in the centre of the "Green Zone" in question, and maintaining a studious video game shoot-em-up style. While keen to highlight middle-Eastern warfare as sporadic and messy (already demonstrated recently in The Kingdom and The Hurt Locker, to varying degrees of success), he exercises a disquisition of the U.S. government's structural and moral flaws through on-the-ground grit (stakeouts, manhunts etc.) as well as the inevitable bout of boardroom conflict. A more organic, action-oriented way at presenting the politics perhaps, and a signal that he intends Green Zone to back up its legislative critique with credible reconstruction.

The film ultimately suffers because it can't really back itself up, or at least it continually loses relevance as an insight into the logistics of war itself. It isn't really a question of whether Green Zone fulfills its obligation as either a "war movie" or a "political thriller" (or indeed as both), but whether what it endeavours to say is heightened or richened by the perceived inexclusivity of its point-of-view. Journalists, politicians, soldiers, and Generals are all aiming to work towards their form of peace in one way or another, and are clearly all attempting to achieve this in different ways. As an international carousel, the assumption that everyone is working within their own limitations is astute (and surely accurate) but the use of Damon as so traditional a hero is problematic.

Miller is plagued with a lot of responsibility in the narrative; the rational leading man becoming an unwilling rebel, and so the everyman is inevitably going to identify with the soldier regardless, especially since the film's critique of the Iraq War is so sure and scathing. Green Zone is too dependent upon phatic exchanges between forgettable, stilted officials to deliver its message effectively, and Miller's presence as such a standard archetype of masculinity only serves to re-enforce that impression. It's rather like having Tom Hanks save Private Ryan with asides of diplomats lamenting that there aren't enough missionaries, and complaining about the dessimation of large, male-dominated families. A sparely used Iraqi civilian forms a loose fuse between cultures, but he's mainly there to appease, and we learn very little from his character as a whole.

Miller's rebellion isn't quite on the District 9 level of absurdity, but it's difficult to believe that he would be able to exercise as much authority without someone questioning it. Bureaucracy is in the firing line but Green Zone ends up sanctioning the need for it on more than one occasion; not least when the press provides a platform for Miller's final act of resistance. Still, since one knows that the American press would never be able to print such a harsh "truth" anyway, the impact is severely diminished, and the film ends with an anti-climactic sense of underdevelopment.


Burning Reels said...

Shame about this...doesn't seem to be getting much love - I had high hopes for it last year but I guess few directors are capable of creating a great war-based film - although by past ventures, Greengrass should be capable!

Emma said...

Hmm, it doesn't look like my type of movie. Your review has just scared me off it further. ;)