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Damon returns to action movies but this one has a political twist.
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★★★★✩

Green Zone

Directed by Paul Greengrass

Starring Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Brendan Gleeson, Amy Ryan

Rated R, now playing

Despite what its trailers will lead you to believe, Green Zone has far less action and far more substance than the Bourne movies that have made Matt Damon so famous. Green Zone focuses just as much on conveying its controversial message as it does on delivering thrills. The film offers a fictionalized and biting critique of the American military’s efforts to locate Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction in 2003.

After several raids on alleged WMD storehouses turn up no weapons but several casualties, Chief Warrant Officer Miller (Damon) openly accuses superior officer Poundstone (Greg Kinnear) of giving orders based on faulty intelligence. After Poundstone abruptly silences Miller, Brown (Brendan Gleeson) of the CIA asks Miller to give him any suspicious information that he discovers in the future. From that point onward, Miller — for all intents and purposes — turns renegade. Miller tires to chase, punch, and shoot his way through to discovering the source of the faulty intelligence (“Magellan”) and finding the answers he craves.

In Green Zone, Damon is more than just an enigmatic killing machine. Through his actions, words, and body language, Miller exhibits a depth of emotion that Bourne never did. Damon’s acting has managed to transcend the mold of his most famous role. Miller’s unwavering sense of justice outweighs his feelings of professional duty; this in and of itself seems to predetermine the film’s outcome.

While Poundstone comes across as a lying and self-serving cog in the political-industrial machine, Brown is presented as an “agency man” who cares about securing U.S. interests above all else. Journalist Lawrie Dayne (Amy Ryan) is another caricature of the film; she tries to piece together the true story about U.S. involvement in Iraq after having published many articles with unverified information received through a high-ranking governmental contact. Further character development of Poundstone and Brown would have resulted in a more meaningful picture of the struggle between the military and CIA for operational and informational control. By embedding his critique of U.S. military policy within individual characters and their interactions, Greengrass doomed his film to a population of such static characters.

Zone gives audiences a window into what the U.S. invasion meant for the average Iraqi citizen. Freddy (Kahlid Abdalla, of The Kite Runner) is a Baghdad native who gets roped into translating for Miller. His plight poignantly highlights the American tendency to overlook the wishes of other peoples and nations. In a concession to thrill-seeking viewers, Director Paul Greengrass pushes the limitations of reality with the plotline of his film. It is clear that Miller’s insolent disobedience exceeds what the military would realistically permit. Even more unrealistic is Miller’s central position in every military event depicted.

Greengrass invites discussion about U.S. government’s failures to deal effectively with the situation in Iraq by directing viewers to examine such issues as the potential for U.S. success and whether U.S. involvement in Iraq can ever be justified. With such a complex story to tell, Green Zone had no choice but to sacrifice the importance of some cinematic elements. Ultimately, the film’s strong message and dynamic action more than compensated for its unrealistic plot and lack of character development. For an enjoyable and, more importantly, enlightening two hours, spend some green on Green.