Review: Green Zone

* * * out of four stars

Someone on the news said that Americans aren’t going to many war movies anymore. Maybe it’s because we’re so sick of war, we’d rather be watching films about vampires. “Green Zone,” the new movie from “Bourne” director Paul Greengrass, is a war movie outraged at the war it’s portraying and the people who put us there. This is an action war film that wants so badly to send a message to not just the viewer, but to America as a whole.

The film takes place in Iraq and was filmed in Morocco, Spain and the UK. The locales are very convincing and effective. You really believe it’s Iraq. Matt Damon is Miller, a soldier in the US army in Baghdad in the year 2003, about the same time President George W. Bush announced the military forces in Iraq “have prevailed.” Miller is stuck leading a team into areas rumored to have WMDs, Weapons of Mass Destruction. The problem is, every place they inspect is empty and deserted. Miller suspects something about the intelligence, but can’t come up with a solution. So he goes to the source, and what he finds is an intricate web of deception and espionage, leading him to dead ends, loose ends and final action-packed end on the streets of Baghdad.

In 2007, I gave Paul Greengrass a “Best Director” Lauden Award (the annual awards I give every year… 2009 coming soon!) for his work on “The Bourne Ultimatum.” The work he does here is excellent as well. However it fails to show any versatility in his directing abilities. Excellent chases, cool gunfights and frantic shaky photography (love those hand-held cameras!) are becoming sort of staple with not just Greengrass, but with many other directors as well. It’s also now a very popular technique in more Straight-to-DVD titles these days. Guys, if something gets that popular, maybe it’s time for something new.

But let’s look at everything else. Brian Helgeland’s script, “inspired by” a book by journalist Rajiv Chandrasekaran, is just a shade ticked off. In the film, Miller is constantly searching for an answer to who’s behind the contact codenamed “Magellan.” The film spends a little time speculating, but Helgeland’s script gives us a pretty good tip at the beginning. Matt Damon, who starred in all three Jason Bourne films (with Greengrass directing the latter two), one again gives a strong performance as the tough guy hero, but again, nothing new.

“Green Zone” looks great, is well-written and acted and never loses your interest. The message is clear and strong. But with Greengrass and Damon, we’ve been here before.

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