Green Zone (2010 movie) review…

Green Zone (2010 movie) review after the break…

Green Zone (2010 movie) review…

Most works of fiction adhere to a basic rule – The viewer or reader of the fiction does not know how the work of fiction ends. When this rule is violated, the work becomes exponentially more difficult in order to entertain the viewer.

Take, for instance, the movie “Star Wars: Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith.” Even casual followers of this series of films knows before watching the film that:

  • Anakin Skywalker turns into Darth Vader
  • Anakin and Obi-Wan Kenobi have a significant light saber fight and that Kenobi wins
  • Anakin has two children, Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa
  • The Empire “wins” the Clone Wars

The challenge, in this case, is how to make a movie where everyone already knows the ending? One “easy way out” is if the ending of the fiction is agreeable to the audience – A majority of people do not mourn the destruction of the Nazi regime. Therefore, there have been countless World War II movies based on real events that have been profitable because people don’t care if they know the ending but are entertained with how the movie arrives at the ending.

What about an ending, though, that is less then desirable for a significant portion of the intended audience? Take, for instance, the movie “Titanic.” Most people even prior to the film knows that the ocean vessel sinks, resulting in a huge loss of life. How do you entertain an audience with an ending like that?

“Green Zone,” a 2010 movie starring Matt Damon and directed by Paul Greengrass, must tackle the contemporary politics of modern Middle East strife in order to tell the tale of an American Army soldier Roy Miller who is increasingly disillusioned when his team of soldiers continues to come up empty for finding nuclear, biological and chemical weapons – The so-called “Weapons of Mass Destruction” (or “WMDs” for short).

The movie is based on sensitive political facts that are still contended to this day by the fanatical fringes – Mainstream understanding now concedes that there were no WMDs to be found, that there was severely faulty intelligence gathered to suggest that there was and even when it was suspected that there wasn’t anything there it was still used as a reason to invade Iraq anyway. Don’t blame me – That’s reality unless you’ve got the evidence to prove otherwise. As a result of this colossal “Whoops! My bad!” moment in American history, the second Gulf conflict tends not to be the crowd-pleaser that WWII movies tend to be.

Roy Miller eventually teams up with a CIA officer named Marty after Miller narrowly misses out on capturing Iraqi General Al-Rawi, who may be the “faulty intelligence” behind all of the non-existent WMDs. The question is – Who lied? Al-Rawi or the Bush administration? And can anyone prove it before a nefarious bureaucrat Poundstone and the special forces team he commands do anything about it?

The movie is loosely based upon reality – None of the characters are one-for-one based on real-life counterparts although they are supposedly “inspired” by real life people. This loose grip on the details but stark reality on the overall truth makes for an awkward movie ripe for political rebuttal, a sort of “Primary Colors” but with Republican ideals in the cross hairs instead of Democrats.

The movie itself is well-made – You feel that it is filmed in Iraq and with genuine Gulf Conflict military veterans. The viewer gets the sense and the awkwardness of being the “invading force” – Miller’s quarters is a repurposed bedroom in a mansion; Camps look hastily built and defended with almost paranoia zeal; The stark contrast of elegant swimming pools being utilized by American soldiers and government bureaucrats simultaneously with military strife just yards away is striking.

The movie is sometimes referred to as an unofficial “Jason Bourne” film but that’s an inaccurate comparison – Despite the star and the director reteaming, Roy Miller is hardly the secret agent that Jason Bourne effortlessly displays. There are no action scenes in the Jason Bourne mold – Miller squares off briefly with a Special Forces commander but the Special Forces commander wins. When Miller tries to elude Special Forces in the film’s finale, Special Forces finds him all too easily.

Supposedly, the final third of the film was re-filmed to make it more exciting. The final “chase” is action-oriented but history-savvy viewers, like those watching “Titanic,” already knows the ultimate outcome – In “Titanic,” the boat really does sink and in “Green Zone,” there is no watershed moment where it is revealed that WMDs don’t exist.

The only way to make a movie where the ending is already known and somewhat undesirable is to make a movie that doesn’t rely upon it. In “Titanic,” the real story line isn’t about whether the boat sinks or not but whether a couple lives through it. “Titanic,” in a way, uses history as a backdrop and not for the story line; “Green Zone” makes the mistake of using history as both backdrop and story line. The end result might be a well-made film but ultimately an unsatisfactory one. Why watch the film when you’ve already seen the newscasts?

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2 Responses to “Green Zone (2010 movie) review…”

  1. CMrok93 Says:

    Green Zone begins with Shock and Awe, and Paul Greengrass tries to maintain that tone for the rest of the movie. But the problem is just that this film can’t keep up its pace the whole time. Good review, check out mine when you can!

    • Lutonaut Says:

      Hi and thanks for reading my blog.

      As I wrote in the review, I think that the main flaw of this film is that it used what many see as an undesirable historical event as the basis for it’s plot. It’s sort of like the film “Valkyrie” – We all know that Hitler survives the assassination plot and all of the conspirators are rounded up and killed. Clearly, a more compelling movie in that case would have been if the assassination plot had succeeded. While a dramatic film about the plot can be appreciated on a dry, analytical level, it doesn’t have a lot of emotional heft because who wants to spend 2 hours watching a film with an undesirable ending? The same holds true with “Green Zone” – We know going in that the WMDs aren’t found because none exist and that the intelligence was falsified as an excuse to invade. Do Americans really want to see a movie where the military can’t get it right and the “bad guys,” although they don’t win, certainly aren’t punished?

      I think that one aspect of the movie that could have been improved for dramatic effect would have been the relationship between Damon and the main Special Forces guy (the one he tussles with near the beginning of the film). There’s just no significant arc there – The SF guy goes from being a sort of “bad guy henchman” to being… a sort of “bad guy henchman” at the end of the film. It would have been nice if, perhaps, the SF guy had a change of heart and began to see that Damon may be onto something after all. For a split moment, I thought that it was going to go in that direction when the SF guy is going through the safe house and finds the dead Iraqi soldier that Damon fought with in order to escape. The SF guy pauses for a moment as if trying to piece together a few facts and maybe gain a different impression of Damon but that’s never realized in the film. Granted the whole last third of the movie was changed so who knows what the original finale was like but even this more action-oriented finale left me feeling flat because nothing structurally changes in the film – The good guys are still the good guys, the bad guys are still the bad guys and nothing significantly emerges as a result of all of the events prior.

      Thank you for your compliments and for reading my blog.

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