Green Zone (Universal Pictures, R)

Those whose appetite is whetted for another great war film after The Hurt Locker will surely be satisfied here.

 Funny that there’s a backlash against the new Paul Greengrass film Green Zone before it has even come out. How can people be so upset about it if they haven’t seen it yet? I guess I’m just overestimating people in my assumption that they actually might know what they are talking about before they attack something.

Which is, of course, the point of Green Zone in the first place. One of two major criticisms from people who haven’t seen it is that it is anti-American. In all honesty, were these people to see the film they might still think it is anti-American (in that it is not blindly patriotic, mostly), but this is more because those people are stupid, and not because the film is. Matt Damon (Greengrass’ Jason Bourne from The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum) plays Miller, a U.S. Army officer who is frustrated by the intel he’s receiving on places to raid as potential WMD sites, when all three of three sites he raids at great risk to himself and his men turn out to not only not have WMDs, but could not possibly have ever had WMDs. After defying orders and trying to find out the source of the bum intel to no avail, Miller goes rogue with the aid of a useful Iraqi fellow named Freddy (a very likeable Khalid Abdalla, who was one of the hijackers in Greengrass’ United 93), and with his help finds some key figures whom the U.S. Army has been searching for for some time.

Criticism number two from people who haven’t seen it is that employs Greengrass’ trademark shaky-cam. Indeed it does. Briskly-edited handheld footage makes a lot of people seasick; I’m not one of them. To read about the shaky cam style one would think it would be annoying (myself included), and it has been in other movies. Greengrass is in control of his style and his films, though, and here the style only serves to make the film more kinetic and exciting.

This all isn’t to say that Green Zone is completely without problems—I had a great deal of trouble keeping names of characters straight, and an even worse time trying to figure out what position in the Army/government/whatever each character was in. Another thing that I’m surprised I haven’t read more about is that I’m not sure how much of this film is based on fact and how much is purely fiction—it’s based on a non-fiction book, Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s Imperial Life in the Emerald City, but the film never gives you the “Based on a True Story” line, and the credits claim that the characters and events depicted in the film are purely fictional. That said, many characters and plotlines in the film are known to be factual; apparently I’m missing something here.

Regardless, Paul Greengrass is peerless these days in creating populist, humane action blockbusters, and Green Zone is no exception. Those whose appetite is whetted for another great war film after The Hurt Locker’s Oscar victory will surely be satisfied here. And really, the ironic circumstances surrounding the backlash upon the film’s release only serves to enrich its point: it seems only fitting that a film about an Army officer who finds his leaders are lying to him about the places he’s supposed to attack is being attacked by people who were lied to about its content. | Pete Timmermann

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