The Austin Chronicle

Green Zone

Rated R, 115 min. Directed by Paul Greengrass. Starring Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Brendan Gleeson, Amy Ryan, Khalid Abdalla, Yigal Naor, Jason Isaacs.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., March 19, 2010

You suddenly realize you've tumbled down the rabbit hole when the CIA turns out to be the good guys, or at least the not-as-bad-as-everyone-else-appears-to-be guys. Loyalties and allegiances in the real world of the helter-skelter U.S./Iraqi imbroglio have shifted so much since the half-heartedly hopeful days just prior to and immediately following the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003 that it's stunning to remember that, momentarily, there was a time when even rational people believed that Coalition Forces would, indeed, find at least some weapons of mass destruction somewhere within the borders of that blighted land. But no, it never happened. Everything was a lie, and suddenly, everyone was dying – literally, morally, spiritually – and it all went wrong. British director Greengrass (United 93, The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum), working from a breathless and fine script by Brian Helgeland (Mystic River) based on Rajiv Chandrasekaran's equally riveting book Imperial Life in the Emerald City, posits the immediate and fruitless search for WMD as an exercise in 120-degree, sun-drenched neo-noir, with Damon's Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller as first a pawn and then a dogged seeker of the truth. Working out of the Coalition Provisional Authority's so-called Green Zone (formerly Saddam Hussein's Republican Palace), Miller and his men encounter one case of faulty intelligence after another until it becomes apparent that all the intelligence regarding the WMD is fictional. Enter Gleeson's veteran CIA spook and his opposite number, a slick, patently untrustworthy Pentagon intelligence officer played with unctuous ease by Kinnear. And then there's Ryan’s Wall Street Journal reporter (based on The New York Times’ Judith Miller) whose lazy journalism led to a series of articles that helped the public believe the Bush and Blair administrations' treasonous lies. For all its political backstory, Green Zone is, most importantly, rip-snorting entertainment along the lines of the Bourne films. Greengrass is by now the undisputed master of action-suspense films, and his director of photography Barry Ackroyd (The Hurt Locker) hits the ground running and doesn't stop for breath until the final shot. Ackroyd's jittery, cinema-verité camerawork immerses the audience in the action but never loses sight of either the bigger picture or who's punching/shooting/torturing whom. No matter where your political gullibilities lie, Green Zone is a riveting piece of actioneering. That said, referring to the near-instantaneous cock-up in Iraq, Donald Rumsfeld infamously quipped, "Democracy is messy." Deliberate obfuscation of the truth, however, is far, far worse.

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