Green Zone is a thriller and piece of historical fiction and even more: it ignores the old injunction against mixing war and politics. Like it or not, the gloves come off and the movie questions why the United States went to war in Iraq. Was it because the Administration in 2003 seriously believed there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? In the novel “Imperial Life in the Emerald City” author Rajiv Chandrasekaran raises that and other questions. The movie is purportedly “inspired” by that book.
Director Paul Greengrass, noted for the most recent Bourne films, locates Matt Damon in Iraq in 2003 as Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller. In that uncommon army rank (often reserved for helicopter pilots) Miller is in charge of a group tasked with finding those elusive WMD’s. The squad follows three supposedly accurate leads, but comes up empty each time, and Miller begins to wonder about the mission – and the truth about his assignment. What follows is a trail of lies, deceit and manipulation, punctuated by constant herky-jerky combat scenes and views of Baghdad in flames.
Good soldier Miller becomes virtually a rogue soldier, as he gets more and more suspicious and determined to learn the truth. Miller is set off against a Pentagon character named Poundstone, well played by Greg Kinnear. He’s a combination of Donald Rumsfeld (even down to the famous line: “Democracy is messy”) and Paul Bremer. Further complicating the U.S. side are another doubter: professional CIA agent Marty Brown (Brendan Gleeson); and Wall Street Journal reporter Lawrie Dayne (Amy Ryan), an unquestioning tool of Poundstone and the Administration. Toss in a sinister Blackwater or Special Forces nasty type, and there is plenty of interaction as well as violence.
On the Iraqi side there’s an equal share of double-crossing and double-dealing. A character loosely based on Ahmed Chalabi, a former Baathist party general, and a one-legged Iraqi veteran of the war between Iraq and Iran complicate that side of the conflict. Since the general is one of the high cards in the deck of playing-card villains (remember that?) the audience is led to wonder whether he can help or hurt the U.S. cause.
Matt Damon is steely and commanding in a very tight performance; the rest of the cast measures up. Whether the viewer agrees with the political slant or not there’s no doubt that this is not the conventional war movie. Some will undoubtedly question the veracity of the political background and the depiction of the Bush Administration’s motives and activities. Others will question the role of a Warrant Officer in challenging higher authority and going off on his own. There shouldn’t be much doubt about the timeliness of debating the motivations for going to war.
Green Zone is being shown at Marco Movies (with table-side food available) at 3, 6 and 9 p.m.
Language and violence result in the inevitable R rating.