Saturday, March 20, 2010

Green Zone

So, I just got back from watching Green Zone, starring Matt Damon, and directed by Paul Greengrass, both of whom were responsible for the excellent Bourne trilogy. The question is, is this movie worth watching, is it a project where the pair won't be embarrassed to have it on their filmography later in their careers?

Well, those are different questions with different answers. Solid entry in their careers? Yes, absolutely. Is it worth watching? How's your tolerance for jingoism?
The film takes place in 2004, in Iraq. But that's irrelevant. It could take place in 1976 in Vietnam, or in 20XX in Madeupistan. Everyone who isn't American in this film is a MacGuffin. Something that's only important to the plot because the plot says it's important. The movie is all about the search for WMD in Iraq, and why they aren't finding any. Except it isn't. It's about the manipulation and corruption of the American political system.  With that in mind, you could replace "search for non-existent WMD" with pretty much anything, and "guy who can prove the bad guy was lying" can be replaced with documents, hard drive full of data, camera footage, etc. Like Universal Soldier, the setting is pretty much just for the controversy and the ability to set it in a situation people already knew something about. That being said, does Green Zone at least use the setting effectively?

Well, yes, it does. A country in the midst of turmoil and upheaval makes for a way to ratchet up the tension of the movie, and the public consciousness knows enough about the real situation that it allows the producers to short-hand some things, saving time for more important character develop... well, plot development, anyway. But at the same time, no, it doesn't use the setting effectively. It doesn't take the final step in resolution, and it can't, because it's trying to squeeze itself in to factual history, rather than being alternate history. At the end of the movie, you don't know what's in store for any of the main characters. You can guess, but if you take everything in to consideration, it's a very bleak ending. Yes, Matt Damon sends the information about the Evil Liar to dozens of news outlets, but how many of them would dare to actually do anything with it? So, Matt's character is probably going to be court-marshalled and thrown in Leavenworth. The reporter lady is likely to have her career ruined for publishing so many uncorroborated stories, the CIA guy who helped Matt will likely be driving a desk for the rest of his career, and Evil Liar Guy will probably just be swept under the rug.

So, the setting is hindering the movie, and the ending isn't much of an ending. How about characters? Nope, they're all one note. Matt's the driven soldier on a search for the truth. Evil Liar Guy is evil, and a liar, and will do anything to cover up his lie. No one's motivations or back story is ever discussed or developed. Well, that's not true. One character is. Freddie. An Iraqi who lost a leg in Iran in 1987, and is helping Matt because he wants his country free, and his people to have liberty. Unfortunately, Freddie ends up being the character who makes the entire movie moot, and taking any real, difficult choices out of the hands of Matt.

Yet for some reason, despite the ending, setting, and characters being less than stellar, the movie is still decent. The plot doesn't have any glaring holes, it never bogs down, and the action is all solid. So, I suppose at the end of the day, I'd have to give this a tentative recommendation. It's a war movie wrapped in a political thriller. If you want to just watch a movie on autopilot, then go for it, you'll probably enjoy it. Just don't expect a thorough exploration of the Iraq War.

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