When Paul Greengrass’ Green Zone was selected to be the first viewing of Amazon Instant Video Roulette, I was actually quite excited. I’m not too big a fan of Matt Damon, but it had been on my radar for quite some time so I was eagerly anticipating giving it a watch. It currently holds a 6.9 rating on IMDb, but did I think Green Zone is worth the time?
Green Zone is set in 2003, towards the end of the Iraq war, and tells the story of a soldier named Miller (Damon), who discovers that a lot of the recent US intelligence has been inaccurate. He begins to hunt for the truth without express permission from the US government, and discovers an almighty conspiracy regarding Iraqi WMDs. I would say a bit more about the plot, but it was put across so shoddily that I didn’t get a whole lot more of it. There is a lot of conspiracy and political themes prevalent throughout, which makes it that bit more gripping, but it’s going to require 100% attention throughout the film’s duration if you want to get to grips with the quite muddled plot. However, if you can stick with it, the plot of Green Zone is interesting, just a shade messy.
Dialogue in this film is also rather poor and ambiguous, so unless you’re familiar with your army terminology, you’re going to have a tough time figuring out what is going on. Characters are mentioned in a passing conversation as if their presence is inconsequential, but there are times where you miss key information due to this poor introduction of key plot points by the characters. The script, penned by Brian Helgeland, is just mediocre to be honest, and does a bad job of conveying information that proves to be key to the progression of the film.
Unfortunately, cinematography was a bit of a mixed bag. There are some beautiful establishing shots of the Moroccan landscape, which added to the desolate atmosphere of the film. Some of the panning shots were simply breathtaking, carrying the unwitting viewer through the war-torn Iraqi streets into the luxury of the eponymous Green Zone. But for every gorgeous shot like this, there were two action scenes that were almost spoilt due to either excessive shaky-cam or unbelievably close close-ups, which came close to spoiling the tension of some of the pivotal scenes throughout the film.
However, not all hope is lost with Green Zone. Since it is set during the Iraq War, and the militaristic feel of the film is incredibly authentic and convincing, which I absolutely loved. Watching Damon command a squad using correct terminology, and performing military techniques, is simply thrilling to watch, and it was during the tense firefights and other action scenes where Green Zone stood a mark above other war films. This is particularly prevalent during the film’s first 10 minutes, where Damon’s squad are given intel regarding the location of a WMD. Subsequently, they have to track down this weapon, but must deal with a sniper first. This was a very intense scene where I felt genuinely absorbed by the film, and although these moments were rare, boy were they good.
Performances are also good, especially Damon as Miller, who puts on an above-average show for this below-average feature. Also good was Sean Huze as Conway, a soldier who is perhaps on the more corrupt side. There were no other stand-out turns in Green Zone, but as I say for quite a lot of films, there was never a performance that took me out of the experience, so regarding acting, I had no real qualms.
Another redeeming quality was the editing. A lot of the cuts were tight and you can see that a lot of work has gone in post-production to make sure this film feels really tense and claustrophobic, and I have to admit that it pulls this off spectacularly. The film pops between the ‘Green Zone’, which is the safe area for government workers in war-torn Iraq, and the destroyed streets of the cities that have been ravaged by war. These sharp cuts allowed the viewer to feel engaged with both sides of the story, and their increased frequency towards the film’s climax added to the tension of the final act.
Regarding the final act, I have to say that it felt a little bit clumsily executed, but entertaining nonetheless. Unless you pay very close attention to the phonecalls and conversations in the Green Zone, it’s very hard to understand what the soldiers are fighting for, and what the Iraqis are fighting for, which means the finale packs far less of a punch than the producers probably intended. Nonetheless, the final battle scenes were some of the film’s best, a desperate rush to get the high value target, with two sides of the US army pit against each other with very different agendas.
To round things up, I felt like Green Zone was just a shade disappointing. I definitely recommend watching it if you’re a fan of war films or Matt Damon, but you’ll need to pay close attention throughout, because unlike most Hollywood blockbusters, you aren’t fed the information by means of exposition, which in a film marketed like a popcorn action movie is a bit strange, especially when considering it features one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. Green Zone is shot beautifully, has tense action scenes and an intriguing plot, but you’ll have to work for it. It’s by no means a popcorn flick, but it’s by all means worth a watch. Maybe just one though…
I give Green Zone 6 out of 10.
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