Bourne actor-director combo Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass’ new collaboration dissects the lies that were told to enable and maintain the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
The title zone is the international zone of Iraq where the Coalition Provisional Authority (the US and UK basically as represented by Bush and Blair) masterminded their search for Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) that Saddam Hussein and his hirsute generals were supposed to have hidden and primed. It was in this zone that high-ranking warrant officers were based in the weeks and months before the surge of US forces. One such warrant officer is Roy Miller (Matt Damon), a humourless but independently minded investigator whose frustration at constantly leading his team in to empty silos and bunkers is making him ask awkward questions of the Pentagon Special Intelligence who provide the information he is acting on. When Miller begins to clash with the Pentagon’s white collar man Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear, superb), like Jack Bauer, Miller has to go off radar. Miller is fortunate enough to be helped by CIA bureau chief Gordon Brown (you see what they did there? Played by Brendan Gleeson) and Iraqi taxi driver Freddy (Glaswegian born actor Khalid Abdalla).
Adapted from Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s brilliant 2007 non fiction book Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone, Green Zone is a brave and intelligent attempt to engage with a very recent history and it’s implications of governmental abuse of all of us.
Greengrass pairs down his style here. Miller is no superhero spy, he’s just a jumped up grunt who cares enough to go in search of the truth, so there are no big set piece fights but lots of running about and hiding all filmed with this remarkable filmmaker’s usual considered docurealist distance.
This very adult thriller reaches back to the political-commercial work of Costa Gavras (most notably his 1972 film State of Siege, a thriller set against the background of US counterinsurgency measures in Uruguay at the time, how things don’t change) and even Roger Spottiswood’s very fine 1983 war photographers in Nicaragua drama Under Fire, to find it’s tone. It is muscular, sexless and deterministic filmmaking and is undoubtedly the best thing Greengrass has done to date. Focused and sparse performances from Damon, Kinnear, Gleeson, Abdalla and Scouse thespian Jason Issacs (as a murderous officer) all helps too.
General release from Fri 12 Mar.