Reader Review: Paul Greengrass’s Green Zone

green zone

/Film reader “Sauce” attended a test screening for the Paul Greengrass war thriller Green Zone, which is based on the 2006 book Imperial Life in the Emerald City by journalist Rajiv Chandrasekaran, and stars Matt Damon, Amy Ryan, Greg Kinnear, and Brendan Gleeson.

There is still no release date for this movie (but last I heard, the studio was aiming for a November/December 2009 opening), so I assume that that it is a very early cut of the film without final effects, sound mix or score. A lot could change between now and the time of release, they might even do some reshoots. Who knows. Just wanted to add a bit of context. Read the review after the jump.


Hey Peter,
Here is a short review of my screening Green Zone. In all honesty, I’m not sure a re-edit can save this movie. It’s bogged down with political messages and heavy handed approaches to proving Greengrass’ points. And I think that the shaking, hand held camera style of shooting will hurt this movie. There is a lot of it.
I honestly had a hard time writing this review because I didn’t care for this movie at all. Let’s hope they can turn this boat around somehow.

~ Sauce_

When you set out to make a movie about the 2003-20?? Iraq War, you’re jumping into very dicey waters. While most people will agree going into Iraq was a bad idea, bringing up the subject, no matter what side you take, elicits strong reactions. Part of the problem? The war is still happening and it is the polarizing topic of this generation. It is a very complicated and tense situation. However that hasn’t stopped Paul Greengrass from flying feet first into a subject that he clearly has a point of view on. Not to mention his polarizing approach to filming action sequences is there in the form of lots of hand held shots.

Some were hoping that due to his handling of sensitive material in United 93, he would be able to make a film about Iraq that wasn’t biased or slanted. Greengrass had even stated that his hope would be that people could see an action film that was set in Iraq without politics getting in the way. Sadly that is not the case. Time and again the political opinions and melodramatic speeches override the story and muddy the film’s goals.

The movie begins with the opening “Shock and Awe” stages of the Baghdad invasion. Iraqi generals flee from their houses as the city explodes.
We meet Matt Damon’s character Warrant Officer Roy Miller as he and his team search a site for WMDs three weeks later. The pacing and music manage to keep things suspenseful even though you know what the outcome will be in the end. The site is empty, no chemicals found. And this wasn’t the first time Miller and his team have come up empty. The tense action and firefights are shot with the distinct Paul Greengrass style. Loved it or hated it in the Bourne movies, it’s back and on screen for the majority of the film. I didn’t have any trouble during the Bourne movies and handled the shaking camera in Cloverfield fairly well, but the amount that Greengrass uses in this movie was nearly overwhelming. It made me a little sick about half-way through. As we were walking out of the theater a woman said, and I quote, “That was painful”.

Miller is searching the next site when an Iraqi, Freddy, comes up to Miller offering information about a meeting of Iraqi military higher ups. The team takes the house in hopes to capture the “Jack of Clubs”, General Al Rawi. Miller gets a lead in the form of a book at this meeting and a prisoner who has information. However his prisoner is stolen by a US special forces group. This sets off a movie long battle between different sides of the Us military and intelligence community. Miller searches for the truth of WMDs in Iraq with the help of Brendon Glesson the veteran CIA agent. Greg Kinnear comes in as a Pentagon Official who is doing his best to try and keep that truth hidden. Kinnear’s character even has his own military unit to carry out his devilish orders. What plays out is both sides fighting each other for info, prisoners and an Iraqi General Al Rawi who is on the lose.

The trouble that this movie gets itself into is that it wants the war to be black and white. The story paints a picture so that there is absolutely no doubt who is evil, Kinnear and the good, Damon. It creates an environment that leaves absolutely no room for ambiguity. The film is also filled with small speeches by Iraqis that are so on the nose and so overly melodramatic that the movie can’t help but come to screeching halt. The movie drowns in it’s own crystal clear hindsight.

This was an early screening, Greengrass was even there, but the response was not good. It only got a weak round of applause and most people did not seem to be enjoying themselves during the film or after.

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About the Author

Peter Sciretta is a film geek and popcultured fanboy living in Los Angeles. He created /Film in 2005.

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