Meet Matt Damon, war hero. If the Bourne series is any indication, director Paul Greengrass knows how to get a pistol-whip out of the actor, and the two team up once again, bringing that same pumping adrenaline to Baghdad in Green Zone.
Heart-pounding blasts erupt as we open with Chief Miller (Damon) and his army comrades as they sniff out weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, circa 2003. A sniper is firing bullets from a tower and looters run through the streets kicking up dust, but Miller's unit discovers nothing. The government has been providing misinformation regarding the WMDs, and Miller takes it upon himself to figure out what's really going on.
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When Miller questions army officials, they act like he's crazy — with the exception of one CIA member, Marty Brown (Brendan Gleeson). Brown confirms Miller's suspicions, and the two begin their own investigation. With help from a Wall Street Journal reporter (Amy Ryan), Miller learns of a mysterious source named "Magellan" who provided information to the press about WMDs; yet, the only person who knows Magellan is Pentagon rep Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear) who swiftly tries to shut Miller down at every turn. So what is Poundstone hiding? If you've ever heard the term "conspiracy theory," you can probably guess — but that doesn't diminish the film's suspense.
That's thanks to Greengrass, who uses his fast-paced shots to take us through alleyways and over fences. His on-foot filmmaking is full of shaky camera work that puts you in the thick of the gunfire for an authentic feel, but it also makes you a bit queasy. As we head toward an explosive finish, Damon launches into Jason Bourne mode, and believability goes out the window. Lack of plausibility is OK though when it's an action movie, right?
The problem is that Green Zone wants to be more than that. With a plot about Iraq and government conspiracy, you're bound to have anti-war underpinnings, and the script doesn't miss out on any opportunity to drive the moral home. This message is voiced by an Iraqi character named Freddy (Khalid Abdalla), who Miller takes in to serve as an informant and translator. Freddy doesn't help the US for a reward, he's doing it for his country, as he proclaims "it's not for you to decide what happens here." It's a thought that echoes through to the closing credits, and a worthy point at that — but in the midst of what amounts to countless chase scenes, for Green Zone it's a little out of left field.
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Photos courtesy of Universal Pictures