The Green Zone is what action movies are supposed to look like. A suspenseful, high-voltage, in-your-face action drama with a plausible scenario, this may be the best action flick I've ever seen. And if film editor Christopher Rouse doesn't get an Academy Award for his work, there is no justice in this world.
With a premise inspired by the real-life events found in Rajiv Chandrasekaran's 2006 book Imperial Life in the Emerald City, Green Zone is the story of a U.S. Army officer who went rogue after discovering faulty intelligence and was instrumental in blowing the lid off the truth behind WMDs during the same year the Pentagon and the White House were declaring "mission accomplished." The movie takes its cues from the ignorance and objectives that came from inside the Green Zone, a safety area including the old Republican Palace where American decision-makers were cut off from Iraqi reality.
Green Zone literally starts with a bang, depicting hyper-realistic shock and awe. The audience is thrown smack dab into the middle of sniper fire, and spends the rest of the flick trying to keep up with the frenetic pace. Army Chief Miller (Matt Damon) begins to doubt Pentagon "intel" when his unit fails to find WMDs. This pits him against defense intelligence agent Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear) and his mission to reshape Iraq into American-style democracy. CIA Station-Chief Martin Brown (Brendan Gleeson) cryptically gives Miller a hand and a Wall Street Journal foreign correspondent, Lawrie Dayne (Amy Ryan), asks him to search for a confidential source called "Magellan." As he moves between clues and battles, Miller doesn't like what he hears.
Green Zone explores media deceit and the Bush administration's willingness to embrace half-truths and spotty intelligence to sell the Iraq war to the American public. But it's the unrelenting nail-biting pace that drives this movie - not the huge political agenda. The crux of this movie is the question: What duty does a soldier have when he discovers that his mission is based on a lie? Bombarded from all sides, Miller tries to stay one step ahead of his opposition.
Damon, in constant motion, draws every detail into his character's trajectory, showing that his range as an actor is expanding with every film he makes. From comedy, action or intense drama, he always skillfully pulls it off. Kinnear does a superb job of being despicable and the always-dependable Gleason is weirdly compelling.
Director Paul Greengrass (Bourne Identity/United 93) amps up his talent for raw, unrelenting, uncompromising cinema vérité with spellbinding terseness, while cinematographer Barry Ackroyd turns locations in Spain, Morocco and the U.K. into a realistic Iraq, the chaos and devastating destruction vividly depicting Baghdad's crumbling infrastructure. John Powell's heart pounding soundtrack propels this movie to insane heights as the stunts, chases, fights, bullet barrages, and explosions hit you with full force.
The uncompromising vision traps us in this powder keg of an espionage flick. The Iraq war has never been depicted with such realistic intensity, or edge-of-your-seat action. In other words, Green Zone has raised the bar.
Starring Matt Damon, Brendon Gleason, Greg Kinnear, Amy Ryan, Khalid Abdalla. Directed by Paul Greengrass. Rated R.