By Fred Topel | Image property of 20th Century Fox
It is simply unfortunate that Green Zone comes out right after The Hurt Locker won Best Picture at the Oscars. I’m sure it was never intended as an intelligent exploration of the war in Iraq, but now a profound and skillful portrayal of the war in at the forefront of everyone’s mind, even the ones who didn’t see it.
Review: Green Zone
Green Zone is just a generic action movie using the WMD fiasco as its plot. Since Rambo is too old to be serving in the current conflict, here’s our new activist action hero. Really, it’s the hero realizes he’s been betrayed by his bosses, so he goes rogue to uncover the truth.
As much as I believe the film knows it’s just entertainment, it’s really heavy handed with the politics. Films like Hurt Locker and underrated ones like Stop-Loss and The Lucky Ones manage to stay on the characters and not politicize. Green Zone spells out the problems we had with Iraqi diplomacy. The main character even chastises a journalist for backing up false evidence. I agree with the politics, but wow that’s simplistic. This is not the literate thriller like Body of Lies either.
It’s pretty humorless too. I like fun action. Even Hurt Locker and Jarhead had moments of levity. I guess First Blood was pretty somber, so it can be done.
I’ll say my thing about shaky cam handheld style again. I still think it’s artificial to shake the camera more than you have to. Even if you’re handheld, you can keep it relatively steady in most situations, but you also shouldn’t rely entirely on handheld anyway. You should be able to create a sense of chaos without literally shaking the camera. Really, when shots go in and out of focus, and when over the shoulder shots actually obscure the subject’s face, that’s not okay. You should know what you’re shooting, even if it’s constructed as “documentary” style. That is not “reality” as I experience it. Anyway, film is a spectacle, not virtual reality.
I accept that that’s Paul Greengrass’s choice of style so I can move beyond it and enjoy what’s available in the movie. The action in Green Zone unfortunately doesn’t have much going on. There are some tactics, like how they handle a sniper. That builds on a basic level but FX’s short-lived series Over There did that several times a week. Sorry, Black Hawk Down was more relentless and you knew what was happening, even if you couldn’t tell who it was happening to. It does look like the bombing of Baghdad from the inside, and there are two good sequences that end up revealing steady panorama of Iraq at war.
There’s less character to identify with than Bourne, and that guy had amnesia! This is just a generic military guy with no background. Now the average soldier is a hero, but in a real world story. Either be an accurate war movie or a Hollywood action hero vehicle, but the two are antithetical. Plus, who wants to see Matt Damon in a brawl when there are three movies of awesome Kali fighting available?
The technical administrative government/military jargon sounds right. I don’t know, I’ll take their word for that.
At least the film can offer us a reminder that we have it good here. If we can afford a movie ticket, then we live in vast luxury compared to the poor citizens of that country. It’s always good to maintain perspective.