Monday 20 Aug 2018 | 20:46 | SYDNEY
Monday 20 Aug 2018 | 20:46 | SYDNEY

Thoughts on Green Zone


Sam Roggeveen


7 April 2010 15:15

Having watched the new Matt Damon Iraq war-themed thriller over the weekend, I turned to the New Yorker's genius film reviewer, Anthony Lane, to tell me what I ought to think about it. Lane is in brilliant form right from the beginning:

The fact that “Green Zone” begins with a bombing raid should come as no surprise, given that the director is Paul Greengrass. He made two of the “Bourne” films and “United 93,” and his attitude to the average viewer remains that of a salad spinner toward a lettuce leaf. You don’t so much watch a Greengrass film as cling on tight and pray.

Lane is indulging in a bit of pyrotechnics himself here, but who cares when he's so good at it! And Lane doesn't just throw off heat — at the end of the review, there's also light:

What lends the film its grip and its haste is also what makes it unsatisfactory, since the end result of Miller’s hectic hunt is to “solve” the puzzle of W.M.D. “If you pull this off, you might just save the country,” Brown tells him, but that is a fantasy more lurid than anything in the Bourne franchise. One of the charges against the Bush Administration was that it sought to encase Iraq in a narrative far too naïve and restrictive for any nation to bear; and, in its small way, “Green Zone,” a left-wing movie that looks and sounds like a right-wing one, suffers from the same delusion.

Spot on. I really enjoyed the film as a thriller, but the quote that Lane refers to above is just one of a number of really clunky bits of exposition. At one point the Matt Damon character even says that he needs to find a particular Iraqi general in order to 'stop an insurgency'. I'm quoting from memory here, but the word 'insurgency' is definitely used and rings completely false. The film is set in the weeks immediately after the invasion when no-one was using that term.

One other grumble. Although the film simplifies the politics of the war to make its point about fraudulent WMD claims, it manages to stay just on the right side of cartoonish stereotypes and conspiracy theories. That is, until just before the credits, when an overhead shot of the hero's convoy moving along an Iraqi road zooms out and out and out to finally oil field. There's the real reason for the war, we're meant to think.