Review: GREEN ZONE (2010) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Review: GREEN ZONE (2010)


On paper, GREEN ZONE is looking set to be the most commercially-successful movie ever made about Iraqi invasion. It's not hard to see why -- the movie is brought by the same team (actor Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass) who made two highly-successful BOURNE series (2004's THE BOURNE SUPREMACY and 2007's THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM) and it has been heavily touted as "BOURNE IN IRAQ", judging from its like-minded template that centers on a man's quest to uncover the truth. In addition to that, Greengrass himself a seasoned filmmaker who used to shoot documentaries in war zones, thus making him a shoo-in of crafting a potentially good movie for such genre. This is especially evident when he made an impact with the controversial but stunning 2006's UNITED 93. Despite all the massive hype, GREEN ZONE is surprisingly a major letdown -- a so-called thinking man's war drama that is actually more of a cliched-ridden movie with little insight or depth to engage us all the way.

Based on a book by one-time Baghdad bureau chief of the  Washington Post, Rajiv Chandrasekaran, the movie opens in the war-torn Baghdad on 1993 where Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Matt Damon) and his troops are ordered to search the city for WMDs (Weapon of Mass Destruction). But all their hard efforts are wasted when they come up empty-handed. Back at the base, Miller voices out suspicions that the military may be receiving false intelligence as well as possible cover-ups. Fortunately, CIA agent Martin Brown (Brendan Gleeson) supports his suspicion and wants Miller to keep in touch him regarding any relevant updates. In the meantime, Wall Street Journal foreign correspondent Lawrie Dayne (Amy Ryan) is hot on the heel against Pentagon intelligence correspondent Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear) for vital information regarding an Iraqi insider code-named "Magellan". While Chief Miller and his troops continue their search throughout the city, they are approached by an English-speaking Iraqi named Freddy (Khalid Abdalla), who just witness some of Saddam Hussein's top men holding a secret meeting at a local house. Once Chief Miller and his troops find out that one of those men proves to be General Al Rawi (Igal Naor), the Jack of Clubs in the deck of Iraqi "Most-Wanted" playing cards, they know they're onto something big. Not only that, Chief Miller also gains what would be a very vital information in the form of a small notebook belongs to Al Rawi. But someone else wants the notebook badly as well, especially Poundstone who specifically orders Special Forces Lt. Col Briggs (Jason Isaacs) to obtain the particular evidence at all cost.

With an intriguing storyline that evokes a Hitchcockian-like mystery route and of course, the ever-popular MacGuffin plot device, it supposes to be a gripping thriller. At least for a while there, the movie does pushes some moments of sheer urgency but Brian Helgeland's adapted screenplay is shoddily-written while the pace is essentially one-note. The story quickly gets tired and increasingly frustrating after a while, and what's left is a predictable one long, tedious chase movie that is almost a chore to sit through.

Though the movie is boost with numerous intensity of endless chases, firepower and shootouts, it's sad to say that Paul Greengrass's cinema verite style to evoke you-are-there, documentary-like vibe has become a tired cliche of its own. This time, his messy handheld camerawork is even more frustrating to follow through than ever before -- especially during the action sequences that is hard to distinguish which is which. A notable failure is the climatic ending set during the night at the maze of buildings and narrow streets. Not only the scene alone is already dark to be seen, and the inclusion of the ever-shaky cam made the supposedly exciting showdown a terribly nauseating experience. This is one motion sickness that is hard to tolerate, and it's a shame that Greengrass doesn't make proper use of his expertise to make all those dramatic scenes with the similar kinetic vibes he once successfully achieved in his two BOURNE series.

The cast, in the meantime, are essentially one-note and stripped off from anything that can make us care about their characters. Matt Damon is no doubt a shoo-in to portray the relentless and tough-looking Roy Miller, in which he plays the physically-demanding role with relative ease. But it's sad that his character offers him very little thing to do other than watching him barking orders, run around with a gun and question authority figures. The rest of the actors, on the other hand, are terribly wasted. Considerable talents by the likes of Greg Kinnear, Brendan Gleeson, Jason Isaac and especially Amy Ryan are sadly reduced into strict caricatures. If anything, only Khalid Abdalla made quite an impression as the sympathetic Iraqi who just wants nothing more than peace and harmony. One minor scene is beautifully played where Miller promises Freddy that he'll be compensated for his role as a translator in helping the U.S. military. But Freddy becomes emotional and claims that he didn't do what he did for the sake of a reward, but rather to do what best for his country and his own people. It is this key moment that separates from the rest of the hackneyed scenarios but it's just not nearly enough to save this movie.

On the technical side, Greengrass and his regular cinematographer Barry Ackroyd does a credible job of turning locations in Spain, Morocco and the U.K. into a realistic Iraq while John Powell's pulse-pounding music is simply engaging.

But the movie remains a huge, missed opportunity that could have been better. It looks like that Hollywood has (again) fails to beat the box-office jinx out of a Iraqi-set war drama.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

crz: just another movie from matt fact the bournes is some better movie