Green Zone Movie Review

While movies about US military incursions in the Middle East may be welcome in terms of making sense of it all, audiences don’t actually want to end up there themselves. Which is sometimes a matter of confusion in filmmaker minds, as they convey war in Iraq on screen less as dramatic revelation, than stomach churning, real time traumatic stress syndrome virtual combat experiences.

Such is the case in the extreme with Green Zone, not to be confused with environmental concerns – or rather very much the ecological opposite. And which feels less like a war zone than the epicenter of an earthquake. Or let’s say, a camera that seems like it’s being tossed around during a football game, for the duration.

Matt Damon is Roy Miller in Green Zone, an army officer assigned to ferret out those alleged weapons of mass destruction from the rubble, following the US invasion of Iraq, in order to justify the military assault and occupation after the fact. With shady when not sadistic CIA operatives and interrogators running interference, pressure from unscrupulous suits in DC, and woefully bad leads pointing to toilet factories and abandoned sheds covered in decade old pigeon droppings, Miller begins to suspect covert shenanigans and a politically orchestrated con job.

There’s also a pestering Wall Street journalist (Amy Ryan) on the sidelines who is hunting for her own scoop connected to the situation at hand. And she’s less interested in the truth than a potential Pulitzer, while eagerly spoon-fed unconfirmed tips like a courtroom stenographer, from a secret, possibly fictitious insider source with the ironically colonialist code name, Magellan. Speaking of ironic names, did I mention Judith Miller? If Damon’s character is tagged with the same name, it could be a tongue in cheek suspect case of no coincidence.

Directed by Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Identity series), penned by Brian Helgeland (Cirque du Freak, A Knight’s Tale) and adapted from the bestseller novel Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone by Indian-American Washington Post war correspondent Rajiv Chandrasekaran, the film is loosely based on the experiences of army chief warrant officer Richard (Monty) Gonzales. Whose Mobile Exploitation Team was sent in search of those WMDs during the 2003 Iraq invasion, and came up with nothing. The same can be said of this movie in more ways than one, which tends to toss aside any focus on current events or the historical record, for a dumbed down, grating generic cat and mouse thriller.

It’s as if the filmmakers figured that we already know the ending, so let’s just have some fun chasing down bad guys. Which when you think about it, is no laughing matter, considering the sobering statistics: Around 150,000 dead Iraqis, (plus another 500,000 due to other reasons such as lawlessness, health issues) over 4280 US military deaths and 30,182 wounded, many veterans with brain injuries, and an estimated 18 soldier and vet suicides per day.

About 300,000 soldiers suffer from depression or PTSD, according to a 2008 Rand Corporation study.

“Of the more than 30,000 suicides in this country (USA) each year, fully 20 percent of them are acts by veterans,” said VA Secretary Eric Shinseki at a VA-sponsored suicide prevention conference in January. “That means on average 18 veterans commit suicide each day. Five of those veterans are under our care at VA.”

Green Zone: Audience seat belts are a must and a few aspirins on hand wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

Universal Pictures

Rated R

one star

Prairie Miller is a New York multimedia journalist online, in print and radio, who reviews movies and conducts in-depth interviews. She can also be heard on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network’s Arts Express.