Along the way, U.S. operatives torture suspects, the UN’s hapless weapons inspectors are treated like the gold standard, and a vile Iraqi general becomes a noble warrior deserving of our pity.
Yet Green Zone plays out in a reasonably compelling fashion for roughly two-thirds of the film — assuming you can swallow so much bunk. Damon, his voice reduced to a husky growl, is credible as the honor-bound solider desperate to solve the WMD mystery. And Greengrass doesn’t waste a moment of screen time; his film is as lean as modern audiences demand.
The film’s settings truly impress, from Saddam’s former palaces to his airport and repository of war-minded statues. You’ll feel like you’ve been deposited in a war zone, one that miraculously recreates an Iraq in full crisis mode.
Even if one buys the Green Zone logic, the film still stands as Greengrass’ weakest film to date. The director’s obsession with shaky camera work is at its zenith here, almost to the point of parody. There’s no shot Greengrass thinks wouldn’t be better sans tripod, and the cumulative effect is dizzying and unnecessary.
The Iraqi characters are given virtually no depth or dimensions, especially a valuable informant who exists to prop up the plot and deliver an occasional lecture about American hubris.
The talented Amy Ryan plays a Wall Street Journal scribe likely based on the real reporter who, according to the film, glibly transcribed the administration’s talking points on WMD. It’s a thankless role far beneath her, and it adds nothing to the film save another talking point about the media’s obeisance in the war’s run-up.
Worst of all, Green Zone takes a terribly complex situation and renders it in high contrast black and white. The dawn of the insurgency, the truth surrounding WMD, the reasons for going to war — each is delivered in sound bites that betray the real issues.
At one point Miller taps out his findings on the computer, as if the director wasn’t sure we got the message already.
It’s like The Iraq War for Dummies written by Oliver Stone.
In fact, much of Green Zone plays out like a Stone fantasy, although the 2010 version of Stone can’t match the intensity Greengrass can muster.
Damon‘s strait-laced performance holds the film together until the final 20 minutes when the mishmash of conspiracies and plot absurdities reaches the melting point. The final street battle is both improbable on a dozen levels and so visually confusing it makes Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen look lucid in comparison.
Green Zone trumps other recent Iraq War dramas in both audacity and scope. It won‘t be remembered as anything but preaching to a choir that likely won‘t buy enough tickets to support it.