‘Green Zone’ can’t sustain promising start

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Thursday, March 11, 2010 3:58pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

“Green Zone” is on the right side of history, as it affirms that intelligence about WMDs in Iraq was manipulated and the early occupation of the country was bungled.

But being right about history and making a good movie are two different things. “Green Zone” gets the pulse pounding, but it too frequently stumbles over its own feet.

The film re-teams the star and director of the last two “Bourne” spy thrillers, Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass, for an Iraq War exercise inspired by Washington Post reporter Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s nonfiction book “Imperial Life in the Emerald City.”

A fictional story, however, has been brewed up by screenwriter Brian Helgeland, in which a gung-ho Army chief played by Damon becomes skeptical about the way his WMD target sites all seem to be empty.

His questioning leads to a slippery U.S. functionary (Greg Kinnear), a cynical CIA agent (Brendan Gleeson) and a Wall Street Journal reporter (Amy Ryan) who’s been dutifully repeating the official line that there are positively, definitely weapons of mass destruction hidden in Iraq. (Her character is presumably inspired by the New York Times writer Judith Miller.)

Most of the action is concentrated into a single frantic day in 2003, as Damon tries to locate an Iraqi general who might have the information he needs.

Damon is stalwart, the settings are convincing and Greengrass (in the style familiar from his jittery “Bourne” projects) hustles the picture along with a shaky, handheld approach that can feel affected if you pause long enough to notice it.

Some of the thriller aspects work. But even diehard opponents of the Iraq War might find the wholesale invention of characters and situations a bit questionable.

When you’re laying out the case that a government invented and/or withheld information in the commission of a war, it’s a little strange to be cooking the books yourself, even within the free-wheeling expectations of a Hollywood movie.

The final sequence, in particular, is a strange moment of uplift that seems as much a re-writing of history as anything Quentin Tarantino tried in “Inglourious Basterds.”

More damaging is the movie’s tendency to shout its conclusions in full-throated dialogue chunks. These might be news to those not into current events, but they come off as strident.

Can’t blame the filmmakers for feeling like they needed to shout; polls still show that a mystifying percentage of people believe Saddam Hussein had something to do with Sept. 11. But when political urgency overcomes good moviemaking sense, things invariably fall flat.

Talk to us

More in Life

The 2023 Infiniti QX80 has standard rear-wheel drive and optional four-wheel drive available on all models. (Infiniti)
2023 Infiniti QX80 is powerful and posh

A mighty V8 engine does the work while a luxurious interior provides the pleasure.

Artist Michelle Downes prepares to work on a few canvases in her garage workspace on Thursday, July 6, 2023, at her family’s home in Stanwood, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Stanwood artist Michelle Downes creates layered dreamscapes in resin

Resin is one part chemistry and one part artistry. Downes combines the two to make art that captures the imagination.

Kotor's zigzagging town wall rewards climbers with a spectacular view. (Cameron Hewitt / Rick Steves' Europe)
Rick Steves: Just south of Dubrovnik lies unpolished Montenegro

One of Europe’s youngest nations offers dramatic scenery, locals eager to show off their unique land, and a refreshing rough-around-the-edges appeal.

Dark gray wheels and black exterior accents provide extra visual appeal for the 2024 Subaru Impreza’s RS trim. (Subaru)
2024 Subaru Impreza loses a little, gains a lot

The brand’s compact car is fully redesigned. A couple of things are gone, but many more have arrived.

TSR image for calendar
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

This weekend in Snohomish: The Snohomish Blues Invasion and the Snohomish Studio Tour 2023.

Made by Bruce Hutchison, the poster for “A Momentary Diversion on the Road to the Grave” is an homage to 1985 classic “The Goonies.” (Photo provided)
Indie film premiering on Whidbey Island

Filmed almost entirely on Whidbey Island, “A Momentary Diversion on the Road to the Grave” is set to premiere in Langley.

TSR image only
Does your elementary school child have ADHD?

It’s important to identify children with this condition so we can help them succeed in school.

This photo provided by OceanGate Expeditions shows a submersible vessel named Titan used to visit the wreckage site of the Titanic. In a race against the clock on the high seas, an expanding international armada of ships and airplanes searched Tuesday, June 20, 2023, for the submersible that vanished in the North Atlantic while taking five people down to the wreck of the Titanic. (OceanGate Expeditions via AP)
A new movie based on OceanGate’s Titan submersible tragedy is in the works: ‘Salvaged’

MindRiot announced the film, a fictional project titled “Salvaged,” on Friday.

A clump of flowering ornamental grass or pennisetum alopecuroides in an autumn garden.
My garden runneth over with fountain grasses, and for good reason

These late-blooming perennials come in many varieties. They work well as accents, groundcovers, edgings or in containers.

Most Read