The Green Zone (15.)
Directed by Paul Greengrass
Starring Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Brendan Gleeson, Jason Isaacs, Khalid Abdalla, Amy Ryan. 115 mins
Now that The Hurt Locker has made Iraq War films respectable, the Bourne partnership of Damon and Greengrass deliver a serious, intelligent thriller set in Baghdad at the exact moment when the triumphant invasion started to give way to disastrous occupation.
Punters expecting some kind of adrenalin packed Bourne Goes to Baghdad romp will be disappointed. During his ascent from World in Action to Hollywood action king, Greengrass has developed an editing style so frantic that it made blink-and-you’ll-miss-it look pedestrian. Prop your eyelids open with matchsticks and the action would still be gone before you could catch it.
Thankfully (I write as one of the few who don’t rate Greengrass’s Bourne films) he’s slowed up enough that you can see what is happening.
The recreation of 2003 Baghdad has a documentary vitality, with sweeping aerial shots of the city that take in Saddam’s palaces and the Hands of Victory monument. The cast is all top notch. Kinnear is a marvellously idealistic shade of shifty while Damon has perfected a rather humble self effacing way of playing the conventional Hollywood lead.
Best of all though is Jason Isaacs who is almost unrecognisable as a Special Forces marine. You look at him and think that it has to be Jason Issacs but the characterisation is so complete, so natural, you can’t be entirely sure until you see the final credits.
Despite its many virtues, the film isn’t as gripping as it should be. The problem is a crushing inevitability to it. As the film opens Matt Damon is the leader of a squad searching for WMDs in locations around Baghdad; how do you think that’s going to work out for him?
Brian (LA Confidential) Helgeland’s script has come up with a single plot that manages to incorporate every American misjudgement – the dodgy intelligence used to justify the war, the absence of WMDs, the decision to disband the Iraq Military and police force, the attempts to install an exiled American puppet as the leader of the new “democracy.”
It’s comprehensive but perhaps a little too neat. There is a condemnation of American governmental duplicity, but that’s balanced by Damon blue eyed, idealistic soldier a monument of American integrity.
I was going to describe this as All the President’s Men on the set of Black Hawk Down, but a man risking everything to expose an epic fantasy perpetuated by the US Government – it’s Capricorn One for the 21st century.