Matt Damon returns as Jason Bourne as Roy Miller in Green Zone, Paul Greengrass’ explosive sequel to The Bourne Ultimatum! Actually, if Greengrass and co. had tried to rewrite the entire Iraq War, with Treadstone in league with Saddam Hussein, building nuclear weapons and planting sleeper agents at the highest levels of the US government, I have the feeling I would have walked out of it feeling better than I did walking out of this one.
Somewhere inside Green Zone is a really good movie. Unfortunately, it’s covered up by an action movie that lacks any real depth. Matt Damon plays Roy Miller, a warrant officer searching for WMDs at the beginning of the Iraq War. When alleged storage sites keep turning up empty, he begins to suspect the intelligence they’ve been given isn’t all it was cracked up to be. Miller only suspects more at play when he meets Brendan Gleason, who plays a CIA agent who’s been finding the exact same thing. Now, Miller’s on a journey to discover the truth, a journey that will take him all the way to the heart of the Green Zone! Or out of it, but it’s not important.
So the movie comes in two pieces. There’s the action movie and the mystery. This part, the mystery, is a really interesting concept. We already know the government wasn’t on the up and up in making their case for war, and an in-depth look at that on the big screen would be rally interesting to watch, and it would be interesting whether the movie itself were fictional or not. This is the film we catch glimpses of in scenes with Damon and Greg Kinnear, who plays a senior government official at the heart of the cover up. Their time together is short, but there’s a good chemistry there that really brings you into the story. But, after the gauntlet’s laid down, Damon has to go and actually find out what’s going on, and this is where the movie fails.
The film’s biggest problem, from which all other problems stem, is how completely one-note almost the entire cast is. And that’s unfortunate because it really is a great cast. Damon and Kinnear are joined by Amy Ryan, Jason Isaacs, Brendan Gleason, and Yigal Naor, who played Saddam Hussein in last year’s House of Saddam. Throughout the film we’re given no real reason why Damon is compelled to solve this mystery. We can assume that it’s because he’s in the military and feels an obligation to his country, but even then we’re given no evidence of it. All we see is a string of action movie dialogue like, “People are dying out there and I want to know why!” When another officer tells him that they have a mission to complete and the reasons behind it aren’t important, you almost flinch when Damon sets his steely gaze on the guy and says, “They matter to me.”
Brendan Gleason, who’s a great actor, is even worse. He spends his time stomping through rooms crowded with people on laptops, never looking anyone in the eye and saying things like, “We’ve got no proof!” “You need proof!” and “Find the proof!” I’m sure in the eventual Green Zone documentary we’ll see some guy standing offstage holding up his cue cards. Amy Ryan, who plays a reporter who broke the story of an Iraqi government official who outlined his country’s WMD program to the United States gives us the exact same thing. “If you can’t give me answers, I’ll find someone who can.” Really? When Damon eventually confronts her about verifying her story, she whimpers like a scared puppy and whether the reality of the entire thing was similar to this or not, you find yourself shaking your head in the theater, unwilling to believe that she was duped that easily. That verifying the Iraqi’s claims was just something she never did.
I don’t mean to be too down on the movie, because I did enjoy it and found it easy to get caught up in some of the more action-heavy sequences. It’s just that behind all of that, the movie lacks feeling or any genuine drama. I’d also venture to say that Green Zone is coming a few years too late to feel relevant in any sort of way. The fact that it’s fictional and so action heavy don’t really lend it any weight in the conversation about America going to war in Iraq. In that sense, I believe Green Zone failed to live up to the goal it set for itself. It offers more as a solid action film, even if it’s all done a little by rote. B-