Baghdad in 2003, and as the United States attacks Iraq, one of the powerful leaders, Al Rawi (Yigal Naor), makes his plans for escaping the onslaught and setting up a future for himself in the country. Three months later, American soldier Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Matt Damon) is in the middle of the war zone of the capital as the conflict still rages, but he and his men have a mission. The reason they are here, the reason for the war, is because the Iraqi government were hoarding weapons of mass destruction, and Miller is one of those hunting them down...
Well, we all know how well that turned out, don't we? And that's a problem with Green Zone, the film director Paul Greengrass and star Matt Damon teamed up on after their huge success with the second two Jason Bourne movies. All signs were that audiences were keen to see what they would do next, but as it turned out this wasn't the blockbuster hoped for, and many put that down to the public suffering Iraq War fatigue, they were tired of hearing about it and besides, the seemingly no end in sight conflict in Afghanistan was the one dragging on in the headlines, so why would they want to be reminded of this?
The filmmakers obviously thought this was a story worth telling nonetheless, so instead of a documentary they applied the sobering facts of the controversy to what was essentially an action flick, packing the screen with bullets, bombs and lots of running about and shouting. It wasn't a bad idea at all, yet there ddin't seem to be enough plot here apart from the information Greengrass and company were wishing to drum into our heads, so after a while it threatened to devolve into chaos as Miller finds all he held true is a sham, and turns crusader for the truth. It was as if they should have settled on a drama-documentary depicting the actual people involved, or gone for straight fiction.
And not, as this becomes, an ungainly mixture of the two, with Greengrass's swaying, weaving camera offering up an immediacy, but unable to achieve what they really needed, which was thematic relevance for the audience who pretty much knew the story because it had never been out of the news on television, in print or on the internet in recent years. It was all very well having Miller wake up to the lies which had been told - Greg Kinnear appeared as a slimy U.S. government representative who gets all the ire aimed at him for dragging his country into an unjust war - but remained unilluminating otherwise when for a start this was a fictionalisation of what had occurred, and therefore not able to present itself as the gospel truth.
It wasn't all bad, as when the action kicked in there was a decent dose of kinetic energy, though at times it appeared to be there for the sake of having something potentially exciting play out rather than serving the message. Jason Isaacs had fun as the evil version of the Miller character, a heavy who tries to cover up the dodgy dealings our hero is starting to latch on to, Amy Ryan offered a good account of herself as the reporter who realises she is disseminating falsehoods but powerless to do anything about it no matter how she tries, and Khalid Abdallah as the token nice Iraqi gave depth to what could have been a cardboard cut out, at least going some way to enhancing intrigue when you're not sure if he has an agenda or otherwise. With Morocco standing in for Baghdad, the dusty, golden sunlight of the photography felt authentic (unless you were Moroccan, in which case you'd be playing spot the location throughout), and everyone had gone to great lengths to convince, but Green Zone was oddly dry and redundant, when it shouldn't be. Music by John Powell.