Based on the non-fiction book Imperial Life in the Emerald City, Green Zone is a fictional account of one soldier’s life in 2003 Iraq. Matt Damon plays this soldier, and the film opens up with him looking for Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) in Iraq. He can’t find any, and questions the intelligence reports that are claiming they are there.
He tells us that this is the third time that this has happened. Already, there are seeds of doubt planted into both his head, and ours. Of course, if you’ve been watching the news over the last few years, you’ll have an opinion already formed as to if America was right in their decision to look for WMDs in Iraq. But that shouldn’t really matter in a fictional movie, should it?
The long answer is this: Yes, it does matter, just not as much as you might think. Since the people involved with this film have an opinion, it’s only fair if you have one going into it. But I don’t believe that your opinion will have any basis on how much you’ll enjoy the film while watching it; instead, it will impact how you view it in the long run.
Regardless of how you view the Iraq decision, Green Zone views it in one, specific, way. You’ll only find out near the end as to whether or not it believes there are WMD’s in Iraq or not, but you’ll likely be able to guess way earlier than that. After questioning if the Intel is correct, Damon’s character ends up looking for clues by himself, going against the army’s plans. At this point, he befriends some other people who think something’s up, led by Brendan Gleeson.
This is the point in the film where the plot picks a villain. In Green Zone‘s case, the overall bad guy is played by Greg Kinnear. Damon suspects him of lying to people about the WMDs, and then later on we see that he as his own personal troop that will carry out whatever task he wants — it’s quite clear that something is amiss, and he will do whatever he can to cover it up.
There are points in Green Zone where you will probably feel lost — I did. Although I tried to pay attention throughout, some of the characters and some of the plot points got lost on me. I had to re-watch some scenes to makes sense of smaller plot points. I have no problem admitting this, however, because it is a flaw in the film; keeping the audience interested is something that needs to happen for a film to be any good. Green Zone isn’t always guilty of being boring, but it sometimes is, especially in key moments of plot.
But after paying more attention, I found out that the plot was actually very simple. There aren’t all that many characters that matter — those that are there are basic and have little characterization — and the double-crossing plot isn’t complex. But it’s somewhat hard to follow without reason to care. And there really is no reason. Damon’s character is boring, and so is the villain. The side characters follow orders, and nothing else.
At least the action scenes are fun, for what we can see of them. Director Paul Greengrass is well-known for his use of shaky-cam, and it’s no different in Green Zone. Although he decides to do something that makes it not work as well as it has in his prior films: He adds darkness to the mix. This means that an already difficult to see picture becomes even harder to see. It’s not always like this, but when it is, you can hardly tell what is going on.
But they are fairly exciting. There are explosions, gunfire and loud noises. That’s about all you need to break up the monotony of Matt Damon walking around and talking to people, so they serve their purpose. Green Zone isn’t really an action movie, and if you are expecting “Jason Bourne in Iraq,” you won’t get what you expected.
I wonder if Green Zone has any purpose. I mean, the vast majority of people, particularly the ones in its target audience, are already going to have formed an opinion on the Iraq invasion. The majority, I assume, fall on the side that Green Zone takes. It has come out too late to really make any difference or any point that hasn’t already been stated dozens of times over. It just feels like a pointless exercise.
I suppose that’s where I stand on Green Zone. It isn’t utterly boring, and I’m not going to say you won’t get any enjoyment from it, but it ends up being pointless because any point it tries to make has already been stated too many times to count. The action scenes where the shaky-cam doesn’t interfere with what’s being shown are the highlights, while some of the extended dialogue scenes are boring. Not a total waste, but not a recommended watch either.