I’ve found myself to really enjoy movies with modern war themes, especially ones with a layer of conspiracy, and definitely count myself amongst fans of Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon. So I went into Green Zone fully expecting to like it and wanted to to temper my reaction to evaluate it for what it was and avoid being influenced by my personal tendencies. Green Zone ended up taking care of that for me though. It wasn’t as fulfilling as I had hoped, and tracked into political grounds that were bothersome, but I did still enjoy it. I just couldn’t see myself recommending it to anyone as a must-see.
In Green Zone Damon plays Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller who is leading a team in the search for WMDs following the invasion of Iraq in 2003. After coming up empty checking out multiple locations that were provided by a source known as “Magellan” he begins to question the validity of the intelligence and the motives behind those in charge.
The advertising has played up the Greengrass-Damon combo with an effort to bring in fans of the Bourne franchise. Those who go into it expecting similar are likely to be a little disappointed. There is certainly some good action sequences but they are more along the lines of gunfights (as expected in a war setting) than the hand-to-hand combat and up-close action that caught on so much in Bourne. Where the moviegoer became invested in the character of Jason Bourne and his journey there is none of that here.
The acting was solid though the characters tended to be one dimensional and somewhat cliche driven. The film employed actual soldiers and the authenticity of that did come across well. I give Green Zone a lot of credit for creating the environments that made it feel like they were in Iraq even though it was filmed in other countries. There were scenes that really displayed what a beautiful location Baghdad was at the time while contrasting that with the ongoing destruction and chaos.
Ultimately what damaged the experience the most was the political nature of it, playing up the lack of WMD’s into an overreaching conspiracy that was taken down by, for the most part, a single soldier. There were pretty straight forward villains within the government based on their actions which just felt manufactured and the message preachy. Some might call it anti-American though I definitely wouldn’t go that far, but it clearly was placing blame and literally at one point stated that the US should never have gone to war with Iraq because of the events playing out in the movie. For all the credit The Hurt Locker got for being straight forward with no political leanings, no one could say the same about Green Zone.
Green Zone is an action packed thriller that loses traction due to its desire to push a political message and end the film on a note that really lacked any drama. The action and environments were well done but the story never captured me and it had a surprising lack of suspense. I do have to wonder though how much having The Hurt Locker as what Green Zone is most naturally compared to ended up hurting the way it came across.
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