Green Zone comes from the British production company Working Title and English director Paul Greengrass, but it stars American actor Matt Damon and represents the new phenomenon of homegrown Anti-Americanism. Playing off their profitable Bourne Conspiracy/Ultimatum film series, Greengrass and Damon concoct a Bush-bashing action movie that (way-late into Obama’s first term and continuance of the war) pretends to rip the lid off the Iraq War’s Weapons of Mass Destruction concept. “Shock and Awe” is mentioned to cue audience skepticism, yet that’s also how Working Title, Greengrass and Damon work: They use mainstream movie industry shock-and-awe to brainwash audience sympathy.
Damon portrays Sgt. Ray Miller—essentially Bourne in army fatigues—chosen to find WMD in the first days of the U.S. invasion of Baghdad. When his first assignment comes up empty, Miller is instantly skeptical—like a reader of The Nation. He immediately concentrates his efforts on undermining his commanders. He uses a disgruntled local (Ayad Hamsa) to track down a devious Sunni leader while abetting a rogue CIA agent (Brendan Gleeson)—essentially spying against the U.S. campaign.
Miller’s a phantom figure with neither personal background nor political motivation. He’s simply correct; the kind of protagonist that could only arise from the Left’s Bush-era sense of resentment and self-righteousness. Damon converts his over-aged boy scout, tow-headed zeal into a practiced air of moral superiority. The script deprives Miller of the complex, soulful disillusionment which marked Richard Burton’s great performance in The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, but Damon has perfected looking down his nose at his superiors, fellow grunts, shifty-swarthy Iraqis—and us. It is an insidious, racist, fascist characterization.
Obviously, Damon would rather play a soldier than be one; and he’d much rather be a propagandist. Green Zone follows the Bourne pattern of escapist violence, yet it argues against Operation Iraqi Freedom with the same smugness as Syriana and the documentary No End In Sight. Stuck in Bush-era cynicism, Greengrass and Damon ignore the success of the military surge but question the legitimacy of WMD claims (“The intel is a problem”), critique the dissolution of the Iraqi army and discredit torture as interrogation. Yet, the Bourne team loves violence: There’s more gunfire and bone crunching than political discussion.
Instead of offering political discussion, Greengrass and Damon play post-Vietnam cops-and-robbers. Despite his enlistment, Miller’s a military dissident. His seditious actions are meant to flatter anti-war sentiments. Miller appeals to those hung up on WMDs yet complacent about Saddam Hussein’s treachery and willfully naive about American political interests. The big problem Green Zone (named after safe territory in Iraq) represents is that these filmmakers, like the makers of The Hurt Locker, no longer know how to characterize heroism. The Hurt Locker’s psychotic G.I. now proves his moral superiority in Green Zone by becoming a traitorous/valorous spy.
Damon has flipped the script of his scrupulous performance in De Niro’s complex CIA drama The Good Shepherd. Apparently, when Damon and George Clooney aren’t robbing Las Vegas, they’re most comfortable impugning the U.S. government. Only the privilege of democracy allows such hypocrisy. (Green Zone’s finale is another Three Days of the Condor imitation where the media justifies citizen disloyalty.) And Greengrass, whose United 93 reduced 9/11 into Airport 75, again displays trite technique. Half the film is whip-pans, stuff you can’t see. It’s for those who mistake blur and noise for action. Greengrass’ pseudo-doc style is as unprincipled as Michael Winterbottom’s. Ironically, when Miller rats on the Pentagon about “false assertion” and “manufactured intelligence” he could as well be describing how Green Zone itself uses action-movie myths to counter political myths.
Directed by Paul Greengrass
Runtime: 115 min.
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