Starring: Matt Damon, Jason Isaacs, Brendan Gleeson, Greg Kinnear, Amy Ryan
Director: Paul Greengrass
Writer(s): Brian Helgeland, Rajiv Chandrasekaran (novel)
Cinematography: Barry Ackroyd
Original Score: John Powell
Running Time: 115 Mins.
Bourne goes to war, that’s what Green Zone has been unfairly dubbed, it is true that there are common aspects, most notably director and star, but Green Zone offers so much more, not that the Bourne films, particularly Greengrass’s, are a bad barometer but this is a completely different beast, one that has something to say about Iraq and WMD’s in particular, to be fair the closest comparable is this years Best Picture, The Hurt Locker, now that is high praise indeed!
Though where Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar winner invested much more into investigating the psychological implications of war, albeit amidst some truly nail-baiting and testosterone fuelled action, Green Zone takes a different approach giving us the first genuinely action-packed film to approach the Iraq war, something every film on the subject thus far seems to have avoided for fear of belittling the importance of it, often presenting us with overly preachy sombre affairs, and it is in avoiding this that The Hurt Locker comparisons are fully warranted.
Though while Greengrass ramps the action up to a breathless flurry his eye is never off the ball, and there is a serious message here, the WMD’s or lack thereof in Iraq shortly after the fall of Saddam. Heading up the unit searching for the ubiquitous nukes, Damon’s Miller is, like Jason Bourne, out to uncover the truth after his latest raid turns up nothing but toilet parts, to say he smells a rat is putting it mildly! Which leads him on a wild goose chase that takes in raids, shoot outs and lots of clue chasing prompted by shady CIA/government men, Brendan Gleeson and Greg Kinnear, and with Jason Isaacs Briggs, no-fuss military bad-ass, chasing him down it proves no easy task for Miller.
Yes, it does still sound like Bourne goes to war, but let the comparisons slip away and focus on the story Greengrass has to tell, his camera tears around picking up explosions just after they blow, catching glimpses of cross-fire as Miller darts from one building to another, we are put front and centre into the action, this is immersive film-making at its best. The joy of Damon is he lacks the movie star looks of Pitt, Clooney or Depp which means he is an easier man to sympathise with, an often under-rated actor he has the ordinary guy act down to perfection, yet imbues the character with the required, likeability, intensity, or whatever emotion is required, and, this is the important bit, it is convincing!
It can be a hard task to juggle something that deals with “real” issues, especially ones this relevant, with a genuinely exciting and thrilling action film but this is the feat managed quite ably as the right elements fall into place, some of the shots are fantastic and even if the finale has a touch of Black Hawk Down about it the final scenes give great resonance to all that has gone before in a way that the aforementioned film never did with all its gung-ho macho act, maybe it helps that Green Zone is helmed by a Brit but everything just seems to feel that bit more authentic and less Hollywood.
However, if there is one misgiving it’s the evidence of a thrifty cut, some ways helping, for example the pacing is brilliantly frantic, however where enough time is spent establishing some characters, others feel a little underwritten. For Isaacs this proves little problem as Briggs is little more than a soldier doing his job but with Amy Ryan’s reporter it is a big problem, meaning her plot strand acts as little more than a device to link the issue to the press upon the films close. This though is a minor detail and quite frankly you will be too embroidered in Miller’s mission to notice.
Action packed, thrilling and has something to say (without hammering the point home!) Green Zone is, in a word, excellent. Greengrass takes us on a breakneck journey through the murk of Iraq to stageeringly authentic effect, when a gunshot is fired, you will feel it and when a car explodes you will experience it, so is the talent of director and star.