There’s the docu-realism obsessed Paul Greengrass of movies like United 93 and Bloody Sunday. Then there’s the balls to the wall action director Paul Greengrass who’s visceral approach to the Bourne series was so effective, it’s been consistently copied by almost every other action director ever since. And that’s the kind of Paul Greengrass at work in Green Zone.
Matt Damon plays Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller, the leader of a squad of US Army soldiers who have been trying to uncover WMDs that intelligence reports swear exist, though they never seem to actually find any. On the job one day, he gets some inside knowledge from Iraqi local Freddy (Khalid Abdalia) that leads him away from the bogus WMD reports and toward General Mohammed Al-Rawi (Yoigai Naor). On the trail of Al-Rawi, Miller starts to unravel a world of covert operations, misinformation and deception perpetrated by Greg Kinnear’s Clark Poundstone, a Pentagon agent and not so nice guy.
Miller gets caught between his army superiors, the CIA, the Pentagon and the locals as he tries to get to the bottom of it all. He’s the idealist soldier, he truly believes his job there is to help people and save lives. And Damon does a great job of showing the growing cynicism as he realises piece be piece that maybe his superiors don’t have the same sort of idealistic outlook.
Even at his most action-tatsic and testosterone flaunting extreme, Greengrass wants to tell a serious story dealing with serious issues. Green Zone makes sure the Iraqis are more than just AK-47 flaunting urban soldiers there for the good guy Americans to shoot or save. With he character of Freddy, he gives Damon and the audience a local face to sympathise with and connect to. He’s a constant reminder that whatever work soldiers like Damon are there to do, good or bad, in some ways they’re ultimately forcing their one version of help onto many people who never asked for it and never wanted it.
While the story comes close to running of the rails at times, Greengarass manages to somehow keep it all together. You’ve got the army, the CIA, the Pentagon, Saddam’s men, locals, a journalist who could be on either side, double and triple crosses and big, loud action. Yet it never seems overblown or convoluted. There aren’t many directors who could hold the reins so tightly on a movie like Green Zone, but Greengrass really keeps it all together.