Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass who worked on the ”Bourne Supremacy” and “The Bourne Ultimatum” have teamed up again for their latest action film “The Green Zone.” Damon plays Army Chief Miller who is leading a team of soldiers searching for WMD’s in the beginning of the Iraq war. When his team comes up empty, Miller starts a one-man operation to find out the truth behind the bad intelligence. Besides being absurdly unlikely and making broad political statements that come off as ignorant and overzealous, this film just doesn’t know whether it wants to be an empty-headed action flick or a film that’s making a political statement.
It is a tough enough feat to make a war-time film in a time period when you are still in the midst of war, but to try to simplify the situation enough to make it work on a base action film level is just a mistake. Greengrass should have stuck to a fictional backdrop for his action hero Damon to live in.
The “Green Zone” is based on the novel “Imperial Life in the Emerald City.” The book may get into substantial details or complex situations about the start of the war, but the film does not. It takes us into the heart of Iraq at the beginning of the war in 2003, where Miller and his team are searching for WMD’s and coming up empty-handed after multiple searches of locations provided by a highly classified intelligence source. Damon isn’t in his Jason Bourne action-packed mode, but instead is a soldier with a conscience who is going on missions to find the WMD’s which are the veritable cause of the war.
Greengrass provides plenty of tense moments where we follow Miller’s team in and out of buildings and down dangerous streets being riddled with gunfire, grenades and RPG’s, but he comes up short with a multi-layered complex story of which one would expect out of a film like this. “Green Zone” specifically focuses on the beginning of the war, following one narrow viewpoint, and is aimed at finding out who is the mystery source named “Magellan.” This source provided the Intel that WMD’s existed in Iraq in the first place, and Miller is concerned at solving the whole puzzle enough to fist fight other soldiers and breach security in an Iraqi prison. Unlikely scenario is an understatement. How much, and to what extent the government covered up intelligence regarding WMD’s and other scenarios which would paint Iraq dangerous enough to invade is not explored here, but instead blamed on one incident involving an officer of Saddam Hussein and a reporter for the New York Times. On the level of enlightenment, there’s nothing new here.
What the film does show is the oddness of modern warfare. The contrast of “The Green Zone” in the center of the city where people mill about with bottled beers in their hands, and take dips in the pool while outside of that tiny area it is mass chaos, death and destruction. These scenes in the green zone are not shown enough either to make an impactful statement about complacency towards a combat zone or the removal of the American public to what is actually occurring in the Middle East because it is just lightly glazed over here.
Additionally, there is no character development of Miller, the New York Times reporter, the CIA contact or Greg Kinnear’s American political figure; they have no past or developed present, they are just pawns in a typical action movie. This part of the film is acceptable in the sense that in this story, which we are still playing out in the Middle East, there is no need for fictitious character development or phony romances, but as a result, there will be no connection to these characters by the audience.
The story of the Iraq war’s beginning, middle, and end have yet to be fully lived out or told in its entirety, and the fact of the matter is that a story like this does no justice to the complexity of the beginning of the Iraq war and the questionable actions of an Administration.
Damon seems to be playing a part that isn’t challenging- an action hero that doesn’t have to delve into any real emotional connection or have moments of human connection with others. There is no bold statement here, no commentary that we haven’t heard in one version or another, and that’s what makes this film forgettable.