Thursday, 11 March 2010

Green Zone: Bourne Over Baghdad?

Green Zone, like the previous two Jason Bourne movies, is directed by Paul Greengrass and stars Matt Damon. It features Greengrass' trademark shake-o-rama, grainy, documentary-style visuals, some thrilling foot-chases, a smattering of spectacular action, and Damon taking the fight to a bunch of office-bound suits who think they run the world.

Aside from these, admittedly myriad, points (and my soon-to-become-hypocritical post-title), it is a reductive comparison to hold this film up as merely "The Bourne Continuation". What we have here is another brilliantly taut and suspenseful action-thriller - built around an altogether different Damon performance - that tells a more thoughtful, politically charged story than the rogue-spy-versus-the-system series.

The Green Zone of the title is a safe area set up by the US in Saddam Hussein's palace during the occupation of Baghdad. It's kind of like Butlins but in a safer neighbourhood. Damon plays a chap named Miller, who is chief of a team tasked with following intel to find the dreaded WMDs stashed in the area. After a few wild-goose chases, however, Miller is beginning to doubt the intelligence of his intelligence...

As you can imagine, he uncovers a web of intrigue and goes off the reservation and people get shooted and stuff blows up. Pretty standard stuff, right?

Well, yes and no. The premise is pretty familiar, but the plot unfolds in a satisying manner which renders the predictable elements less important. It's less "whodunit?" than

Damon's Miller is a world away from Jason Bourne; a vocal, honest, upstanding man, who goes from just trying to do his job to trying to find out the truth, even if he CAN'T HANDLE IT! Unfortunately for him, while he trumps Bourne on personality, he lacks the "human-killing-machine" quality of the super-spy, and spends a good deal of the film out of his depth and getting his arse handed to him.

Due to the fact that most of my days involve locking myself away from reality in a fantasy world of my own creation, I can't really comment on the authenticity or "historical" accuracy of the film, other than to say: it seems PLAUSIBLE to a layperson that a lot of the events in this film COULD have taken place. However, I do think the film was built around a very definite liberal/left political agenda, and when the morals of the story come out in a couple of on-the-nose bits of dialogue towards the end, it may be a teeny step too far towards preaching.

That said, the film remains a compelling, thrilling ride, contains cheerable heroes, punchable villains and a whole cast of ambiguous characters inbetween. And, best of all, an unrecognisable Jason Isaacs playing a Special Forces officer like a cross between John Wayne and Bennett from "Commando".

Let off some steam!