Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon have certainly proven themselves as a bonafide director/actor team in Hollywood. Responsible for some of the best action films in recent years (The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum) the two certainly know what they are doing when it comes to the genre. Now they bring us Green Zone, taking the action and conspiracy elements from The Bourne series and bringing them into an Iraqi War setting. Do Greengrass and Damon retain their magic for their third outing or is the Green Zone a zone to steer clear of?
Green Zone tells the story of Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Matt Damon), a soldier currently in Iraq who is charged with finding weapons of mass destruction. The film takes place in 2003 following the American invasion of Iraq. As Miller and his team continuously come up empty in their hunt for weapons, Miller grows tiresome and starts to question the legitimacy of the intel. One thing leads to another and Miller learns that the intel may not be as reliable as his superiors would have him believe and there may be a conspiracy going on. With the help of a news reporter named Lawrie Dayne (Amy Ryan) and Martin Brown (Brendan Gleeson) a CIA officer, Miller goes rouge as he tries to uncover a conspiracy that reaches higher than he could have imagined. As Miller gets closer to the truth, U.S. intelligence agent Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear) is there to get in his way as there are bigger interests to protect.
If it sounds very political that’s because it is. Green Zone isn’t afraid to take sides. It’s a brave film and one that voices its opinion loud and clear. It provides a take on the war that no other film in Hollywood really has provided before. The film walks a careful line between fact and fiction and while it never claims to be based on fact, the similarities and parallels are as eerie as they are believable. The film takes a bold stance and that is what makes it so engaging. It managed to take sides without being too heavy handed.
The plot pulls you in and as the viewer, you feel almost compelled to find out what is going on. Like Miller, we feel duped, we feel like we’ve been played, taken advantage of and used as a pawn. It forces us to turn around and question what we know about the war. Whether you believe what Green Zone is telling you or not is irrelevant, it’s the implications of what it is suggesting that resonates so strongly and that make the plot feel all the more real.
To say anymore would spoil the film and I certainly would not want to do that, but throw in a couple twists and some controversial views and you have a very engaging and worthwhile plot. The film is unapologetic in its approach to the war and for that I commend it.
Another reason Green Zone works so well is because, as I said before, Damon and Greengrass both know how to create action. Damon is near perfect in his role here as Roy Miller. He is effective as ever taking charge of every scene he’s in and creating intensity in even the most mundane scenes, he truly is a movie star well suited to action. In Green Zone, Damon is less of a superhero than he was in The Bourne films. Being the realistic film that it is, you won’t see Damon taking down a multitude of enemies because that’s just not realistic. As Roy Miller, Damon exhibits a more human character as he plays it safe rather than sorry.
Greengrass, a master of action, doesn’t fail us in his third outing with Damon. His signature shaky cam style is back. I do know of people who don’t like the shaky cam style of filming but I personally enjoy it. I think it makes the film more realistic and helps envelop the viewer in the action. The action here is great, the editing is tight, slick and continuous. We are constantly on the edge and fully engaged for the whole ride. Greengrass extracts an energy from the film that is unparalleled and not often found in films. The handheld camera scenes only serve to heighten the urgency and magnify the chaos that is found in the firefights. Passion is found behind every scene as they play out with velocity and precision. Greengrass proves himself to be a great asset to the film.
The action is more of a middle ground between the unrealistic action in the Bourne films and the more realistic action that Greengrass showed us in United 93. It’s well paced and fluent and always intense with Damon leading the charge. Overall it provides for a very entertaining experience.
Green Zone isn’t a perfect film though and it does falter in a few areas. For one we never really learn much about Miller. He is so adamant on finding the truth and he’s willing to risk it all to find it but we don’t know why. His motivation and ambition towards his mission is admirable but his motives behind it aren’t exactly clear. Being a patriot is one thing but Miller is more of a martyr when it comes to his cause.
The other characters also aren’t developed that well. The characters of Poundstone, Brown and Dayne are all fairly flat and two dimensional and it’s a shame because they all could have been interesting characters. The actors playing the roles were all good and they all offered strong performances, their characters were just written poorly. Kinnear, Gleeson and Ryan all shone in their scenes and it’s just a shame their characters weren’t more developed. They seem wasted in this movie.
Overall, despite its flaws, Green Zone is a very strong film. It brings out strong performances from all the leads and offers a thrilling, intriguing, and engaging story. The action is top notch and offers all the excitement we’d ask for in a Greengrass/Damon affair. The characters could have been a bit more fleshed out and some of the plot could have been expanded further but none of this is that detrimental to the film. It finds a beautiful middle ground between all of the elements it is juggling and in the end turns out to be a film that I’d highly recommend. The Green Zone is definitely one zone you want to be in.
In terms of presentation the Blu-ray is pretty good. The video looks great aside from two issues that did annoy me. The first was the unnecessary excessive use of film grain. It especially became annoying in the last act of the film since it was set at night. Speaking of night, the nighttime scenes were poorly lit and sometimes it truly became tough to see what was going on. This may have been done on purpose to give the audience a sense of fear but I found it distracting. Aside from this, the picture is pretty good. The contrast is excellent, flesh tones look solid and the day shots look great. Overall it is a fairly good visual presentation.
The audio is phenomenal. Gunshots explode and roar around the room and explosions are mighty as ever. Dialogue is crisp and clear and never once lost in the gunfire. The score kicks in at all the right moments and is mixed in beautifully with the heart pounding sound effects that occur in all the right moments. The atmosphere provided here is top notch. Throw in a pulsing bass and aggressive surround channels and you get a great, realistic sound presentation. It’s an immersive and impacting audio transfer and one that is very impressive.
Green Zone also comes with a healthy number of extra features that include:
– Feature commentary with Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass
– Matt Damon: Ready for Action: Matt Damon demonstrates the grueling training regimen he used to prepare for his role in Green Zone
– Inside the Green Zone: An exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the making of some of Green Zone‘s most powerful scenes
– Deleted Scenes
– U-Control with Video Commentary with Matt Damon and Director Paul Greengrass and Picture-in-Picture
– BD-Live and pocket Blu
The special features are decent but don’t really do the film justice. The commentary was rather boring as I found Greengrass to be a slow talker and he is the one doing most of the talking, not Damon. The picture in picture behind the scenes part of the U-Control was good and is a feature that I really enjoy. It offered some nice behind the scenes looks at various scenes of the film. It wasn’t available for every scene but it was there for a good chunk of the film. The two documentaries are rather short, both coming in at around ten minutes and are more fluff than anything else. They aren’t terribly insightful but if you enjoyed the film go ahead and watch them.
At the end of it all, Green Zone is a very good film. It is a smart, exciting and well paced thriller that is sure to excite even the biggest skeptics in the room. The transfer is pretty good with only a few issues and while the extras could have been a lot better for this film they also could of been a lot worse.
While the Blu-ray package itself isn’t the best, the film alone certainly is worth the price of the disc. You get a great film with a better than average transfer and a small handful of bonus features. I’m going to go with a buy this for Green Zone. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable film and one that you will probably want to watch again somewhere down the line.
A solid action film that is not afraid to voice its opinion. Green Zone is exciting, intriguing and interesting and Damon offers up a great performance.