Monday, 16 May 2011

Green Zone

Lowdown: When the search for WMDs in Iraq reveals nothing, one soldier is starting to ask questions.
Not much out there can beat the good old action thriller when it comes to sheer cinematic entertainment, at least in my book. It is therefore a thrill to see a good sample of the genre, for Green Zone genuinely thrilled me.
Set in 2003 Iraq, shortly after the USA and its allies conquered it, we follow a soldier called Miller (Matt Damon) whose mission it is to direct teams looking for weapons of mass destruction. As hard as they search they can only find garbage (literally), while Iraqis around them are suffering and while the eyes of the world are upon them. A tip from a local Iraqi to the hungry for good intel Miller leads the latter to a meeting of former high ranking Iraqi officials. Between the fighting and the slowly uncovering of clues, Miller find himself in between USA government officials on one side (led by Greg Kinnear) and a veteran CIA operative (Brendan Gleeson) on the other. More importantly, he has to make a moral choice.
Of the various films we had seen on the war in Iraq, Green Zone seems to have hit the soft belly the best. Although fictional, the film is heavily spiced with real or real like events, which it uses to ask us how USA government officials managed to cheat the entire world into this war. The process of waking up to reality which Miller goes through in the film is very similar to the one I went through: believing the mantra of WMDs, and given Saddam’s lack of inhibitions when it comes to using them, I considered the war in positive light at the time. However, today I know I was fooled. I have paid a price for my ignorance, but the price I personally paid is nothing compared to what has been paid by those closer to the scene (or, for that matter, by the generic American tax payer).
Thrills aside, the main thing you would notice about Green Zone is its style. Hand held cameras are the order of the day, and these are far from stable. Indeed, they shake so much you often feel it’s done on purpose. The Blu-ray’s cover claims this is director Paul Greengrass’ distinct style, and if you watched some of his former films (like Bourne Ultimatum) you would have to agree. Where we are in disagreement is whether this style has any merit: I will leave things by saying I despise a style that forces me to watch a film equipped with barf bags.
Best scene: Freddie, the Iraqi informant, demonstrates why Iraq is such a boiling cauldron of mixed interests. I won’t spoil the scene further, but I thought it is a great way to let the movie watcher feel Iraq for the complex entity that it is.
Overall: A very good action thriller hampered by annoying camera work, for which it is paying the price of receiving only 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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