Like screaming at the Titanic to avoid the big block of frozen water or advising John Dillinger not to go the movies there’s an inherent danger in having audience members one step ahead of the on-screen protagonists.
So when Matt Damon sets off to find Weapons Of Mass Destruction in Iraq there’s a large part of you that may be telling him to put his feet up and have a cuppa instead.
If anyone can add a little suspense to a recent tale that’s ending is well told, it’s Paul Greengrass, director of the magnificently nail-biting United 93 and the riveting movie of Irish woes, Bloody Sunday. Shame then that Green Zone adds far too much ‘Middle Eastern Politics For Dummies’ into a movie that’s thrills should have been more than enough to entertain and provoke thought.
Like United 93, Green Zone kicks off with the view from ‘The Other Side’ as Iraqi generals and civilians feel the full force of the US (and Allies) Shock and Awe campaign. With the dust still settling Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Matt Damon) enters. With the help of a friendly CIA agent(Brendan Gleeson), a friendly journalist (a criminally underused Amy Ryan) and a, you guessed it, friendly Iraqi civilian (Khalid Abdulla), Roy(!) sets off on a mission impossible to uncover the source of the intelligence that took us into the desert for the second time.
Up front Green Zone is a typical Paul Greengrass film. The director’s trademark handycam footage is once again widely prevalent, so avoid the front few rows unless you fancy hurling your nachos up over the guy in front. It wears its politics on its sleeve and it features Matt Damon kicking some butt. So far, so good.
But there are two things that curb Green Zone from achieving anything like cinematic greatness. The first being its condescending (you all know what condescending means right?) take on the most recent conflict of our times.
As stated before it really is Politics for Dummies. Some lines of dialogue belong in a Newsround recap of the War On Terror. “But,” Damon wimpers at one point “WMD’s were the whole reason we went to war!”. Really Matt, thanks for the information, because I was asleep for the whole of 2003.
Truth be told my own particular naive brand of politics don’t differ much from Paul ‘I Love The Guardian‘ Greengrass’s. But whether or not we both wave the placards of ‘Lick My Bush’ there’s really no need for the kind of patronising portrayal of events found here.
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The second fault, and what’s particularly striking about Green Zone, is how anti-climactic it all is. Greengrass, usually a master of endings, manages to render the final 45 minute chase scene (well it’s about that long and 45 minutes seems a good made-up number under the circumstances) completely pointless in about 4 seconds.
Green Zone could have been just an ace, thrilling, thriller. One that features Matt Damon running around, investigating stuff, occasionally fighting some people and blowing shit up. Its subtext of ‘Iraq War=Bad’ should have been harder to find than a nuclear arsenal in Tikrit.
Instead it’s as obvious and, yes, even as dumb, as the original invasion.
When Owen Nicholls is not managing to get through an entire Green Zone review without mentioning Bourne or The Hurt Locker, he edits and writes for www.thisfilmison.com