In the Picture

Green Zone

Directed by Paul Greengrass

Rated M

It is 2003 and American forces have invaded Iraq and occupied Baghdad, searching for the elusive “weapons of mass destruction” that were used to justify going to war. Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Matt Damon) heads a team whose job it is to check all the locations where US intelligence believe the WMD may be hidden.

The problem is they keep coming back empty handed and Miller starts questioning the source of the information.

Matt Damon always looks like apple pie, a home run and a gas guzzling convertible rolled into one – the ultimate clean cut, square jawed American good guy. The bad guys in this film are the American military and political powers, personified by Pentagon Intelligence Officer Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear), who fabricates intelligence and manipulates the media in order to justify the invasion.

But of course Hollywood couldn’t make a movie where the Americans are portrayed entirely as the baddies, so we have CIA agent Martin Brown (Brendan Gleeson) as the beacon of truth, justice and the American way. He is the one telling Washington that their puppet leader won’t be able to unify the diverse ethnic groups and that they will need to work with elements of the Iraqi military. (Not a very popular position with those in Washington). He also smells a rat in the WMD intelligence and when he and Matt Damon get together and start a rouge operation, you just know they have God on their side.

Green Zone is a non-stop action thriller that takes you into battle zone Baghdad. A lot of it is shot with a hand-held camera, giving a sense that it was filmed by a news crew right in the thick of the action.

The stakes are high, the editing is fast and furious, and the military hardware and the music score are big and imposing.

The title comes from the “safe” area where the American administration based themselves in Saddam Hussein’s former palaces. When Matt Damon steps in for the first time and sees people sunning themselves by the pool, eating pizza and drinking beer, the contrast with where he has just come from couldn’t be more stark. On the streets there is death, destruction and debris everywhere and the Iraqi people are desperate for food and water.

Damon’s Iraqi informer/translator Freddy (Khalid Abdalla) is the voice and face of the Iraqi people and does a stellar job in what is essentially a one dimensional role.

If you want big action that doesn’t stop for a breath and some political intrigue, you could do a lot worse than this.

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