Green Zone (2010)

(In theatres, March 2010) Politically-motivated action films are rare and precious, so I am unapologetic in liking Green Zone a lot more than I should given my distaste for Paul Greengrass’s shaky-cam style.  His politics are in the right place, but his habit of giving jobs to spastic cameramen can be tough to tolerate, especially in early dialogue scenes.  Yet despite the firefights, this story is largely about the way a loyal soldier comes to realize the ways the US government has lied about WMDs in Iraq.  It’s also a damning portrait of the way the US acted during its first year as an invader: Using Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s non-fiction book Imperial Life in the Emerald City as inspiration for its setting leads to one of the best digitally-enhanced portrait of occupied Baghdad so far.  Matt Damon is surprisingly credible as the soldier whose questions lead to unpleasant realizations, and one action sequence featuring helicopter surveillance feels as uniquely contemporary as Greengrass’s own Bourne Ultimatum London chase sequence.  Still, this may be a film not only for those who can spot the Judith-Miller-inspired patsy journalist or the not-Ahmed-Chalabi puppet figurehead, but those who can both explain De-Baathification and why it was so badly implemented.  For savvy political observers, Green Zone feels like a swift Cliff’s Notes version of recent history, or a version of No End in Sight with far many more gunfights.  While the dramatic arc of the script feels ordinary (although the American-on-American conflicts are a nice touch), it’s its dramatization of recent bleeding history that’s most rewarding.  It so confidently states what many Americans are still reluctant to affirm despite piles of evidence to the contrary that it becomes a minor revelation of what filmmaking can still do –especially in non-American hands.  In this context, trolling the politically-driven negative reviews for the film becomes entertainment in its own right.  In the meantime, Green Zone goes to join The Kingdom and Lord of War as examples of how enjoyable action filmmaking can back up a socially-conscious theme, and not be much more than half a decade behind current events.

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