Not since a Nam-scarred Sly Stallone asked, ‘Do we get to win this time?’ in Rambo: First Blood Part II has an American action star been deployed to rewrite history so thoroughly. Matt Damon, while only an Army warrant officer in the ridiculous Green Zone, gets pretty mouthy in his futile search for Iraqi WMDs: ‘This intelligence is bull****!’ he informs superiors and slower viewers.
Going rogue, the character shocks a Judith Miller reporter type (Amy Ryan) into conscience, shouts down a Rumsfeldian Washington worm (Greg Kinnear) and tries to spring a prisoner from an Abu Ghraib-like compound. A CIA fat cat (Brendan Gleeson) ogles babes by the pool in the protected zone while the real deal goes down in night vision. Ultimately, a heroic email will be sent to the world’s journalists, certain to publish the truth. Aw, yeah: the power of the press – with backbone!
Let’s not blame Rajiv Chandrasekaran, author of the credited 2006 source account, Imperial Life in the Emerald City (much goosed by ‘inspired’ screenwriter Brian Helgeland), for the misfire. The real disappointer is director Paul Greengrass who, with United 93 and his earlier Bloody Sunday, pulled off small miracles of tact. Greengrass is better known for the last two Bourne movies – again, superior fantasies inspired by modern terror. Green Zone, though, has him fumbling mightily, grabbing for big moments with shockingly dumb dialogue (‘Don’t be naive!’) and turning the Iraq War into a Bond film. The director still cuts footage with the deftness of a jazz player, and some might consider this to be his most daring, idealistic movie; it’s like a big, revisionist do-over. Alas, he’s pushed himself into a weightless place where his skills are moot.