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Green Zone
Click for full sized poster

Green Zone

Starring Matt Damon; Greg Kinnear, Brendan Gleeson, Amy Ryan, Khalid Abdalla and Jason Isaacs
Screenplay by Brian Helgeland
Inspired by the book “Imperial Life in the Emerald City” by Rajiv Chandrasekaran
Directed by Paul Greengrass
website: www.greenzonemovie.net

IN SHORT: The First Best Of the Year. [Rated R for violence and language. 115 minutes]i

US Army Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Matt Damon) , Defence Intelligence agent Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear); CIA station chief Martin Brown (Brendan Gleeson) ; Wall Street Journal journalist Lawrie Dayne (Amy Ryan); Freddy (Khalid Abdalla) , an Iraqi civilian who becomes Miller’s translator; Special Forces Lt. Col. Briggs (Jason Isaacs) as the Special Forces operative who could destroy both Miller’s mission and the warrant officer himself

Miller leads a team searching for WMDs during our invasion of Iraq. Each bit of intel  leads to a battle. Each battle leaves his men beaten and bruised. What's worse, each location comes up empty. No Weapons of Mass Destruction. Not the first time they attack a location. Nor the second or third. He's rather frustrated about  the lousy intelligence, even as the intel suits (Kinnear) and CIA operatives (Gleeson) battle over territory and influence in the new Iraq. So when a local, call him Freddy, comes forth with his own info -- Freddy has seen a number of former top men of Sadaam Hussein's government and military sneaking into a  house, apparently a meeting of some kind -- Miller takes his men and goes a hunting. Outside of the military green zone, where the press frolic in captured and secured hotels and English is the predominant language, Miller needs a translator to communicate with the locals, so Freddy remains along for the ride. As he points out, it is his country. Not Miller's.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Green Zone, he would have paid . . .

$9.00

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amazon com link Click to buy films by Paul Greengrass
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Green Zone is set in the early months of the Iraq War and seen through the eyes of Matt Damon's chief warrant officer, parachuted in from a Universal story conference to find Saddam's hidden Weapons of Mass Destruction. After three successive sites yield nothing but mobs of looters and calcified pigeon shit, Damon is pissed; what's more, he has the guts to stand up at a mass briefing and complain. Boldly asking for the intel source, he's slapped down by the brass, brushed off by his CO and told by a Pentagon smoothie (Greg Kinnear) that "Democracy is messy." Then, following a tip by a friendly Iraqi (Khalid Abdalla), Damon begins to get the picture and sense the fix, even as the Defense Department operatives initiate what amounts to a cover-up coup against the (here good-guy) CIA.

Greengrass's pyrotechnics aside, Green Zone works mainly because of the hardworking, always-believable Damon. The ultimate good soldier in Saving Private Ryan, the cleverest of con men in The Talented Mr. Ripley, Damon is still a juvenile at 40. He has made a career of alternately projecting and parodying boyish idealism, sometimes in the same movie (e.g., The Informant!). For Green Zone, he's Bourne again with a difference, a gung-ho figure of incredulous righteous indignation. If there are no WMD in Iraq, then What's the Muthafuckin' Deal?

No characters have any more depth than that, but Greengrass has a knack for visual shorthand (a whiff of Abu Ghraib, a taste of "Mission Accomplished") and stereotypes in motion. He gets maximum mileage out of the twitch beneath Kinnear's Rum-dumb diffidence, the pained flicker of acknowledgment when smart-ass reporter Amy Ryan realizes she's been played for a chump, and CIA man Brendan Gleeson's galumphing kick-away-the-barstool call to arms. And hats off to Greengrass and screenwriter Brian Helgeland for allowing Abdalla's everyman Iraqi patriot to intervene with the movie's big unanswerable line: "Eet eez not for you Amer-r-ricans to decide wot hoppenz heere!"

As black and white as Helgeland's script is, the movie may still be too nuanced for mass consumption. As Damon's idealism merges with realpolitik, the ultimate issue is whether to deal or not with a Ba'athist general. In the end, though, action trumps logic. Damon's two-fisted, patriotic mega-rogue boy-scout-cum-investigative-soldier is a far less likely figure than the thrill-crazy hero of The Hurt Locker—grabbing Kinnear by his collar and hissing, "Do you have any idea what you've done here!?" while Ryan stands by wincing in shame.

The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.