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Green Zone - Movie Review


Green Zone

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As America approaches the 7th anniversary to the beginning of the Iraq War this Spring Break, director Paul Greengrass drops audiences into the politically-charged Green Zone with the hope of shedding a little unspoiled light into the soggy quagmire that the unyielding war in Iraq has become since its inception. Utilizing his go-to-man-of-the-moment, actor Matt Damon in another stand-out performance, Greengrass drives his humvee headfirst into a war narrative that hearkens back to the early misty-eyed years of the Bush Administration and provides a surprisingly thoughtful film that highlights the mistakes in Iraq that continue to shock and awe the nation at home.

Damon portrays Chief Roy Miller, a warrant officer leading a group of soldiers following intelligence to WMD locations throughout Iraq. Miller is an officer who is objective-minded and knows without a doubt that the WMD will be found; however, he eventually becomes disheartened by the inconclusivity of their scouting missions. Supremely frustrated by the lack of willful leadership concerning the task at hand and at finding nothing of value by his missions a feeling highlighted by a fairly humorous scene in which the team searches an abandoned toilet factory for WMD Miller starts poking and prodding his leadership and Lawrie Dayne (Amy Ryan), a foreign correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, for reasons why the WMD intelligence is constantly faulty. When Special Forces kidnaps the only willing-to-talk Iraqi away from him in a traumatic encounter that pits the United States against itself, Miller finds himself betrayed by leadership, guided solely by a mysterious diary, and suddenly reassigned by CIA Baghdad bureau chief, Gordon Brown (Brendan Gleeson). Encouraged to uncover the truth by Brown and, ultimately, forced into a showdown between former members of Iraqi leadership and Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear), Pentagon Special Intelligence, over the fate of Iraq and the truth concerning WMD.

As director of United 93, Bloody Sunday, and fan-heralded savior of the Bourne franchise, Greengrass continues to finely tune his documentary-style approach to filmmaking with Green Zone. Technically tight and starkly lit with low-key finesse, the film is a tactical triumph for those enjoying the energy of in-the-moment action. Frantic in its approach to documenting hand-to-hand combat, Green Zone is as close to the razor's edge of the disconnect in political reasoning and military might that some audiences will ever care to get. As shaky as the camera gets, there will be those audiences who are, in fact, even more shaken by the very idea of nations being lied to in a fruitless search for WMD as a reason for war. Those audiences expecting Greengrass to do something uncommonly steady with the camera instead of his trademarked grit-filled shakiness courtesy of the naturalistic, neo-realistic cinematographic styling of Barry Ackroyd (this time around) - will be severely disappointed; Greengrass knows not what a tripod or a dolly is for and simply could care less for such tools of the cinema. (Author's note: At this point in his finely chiseled career as director, expecting such nonsense would be like expecting Tim Burton to stop being so weirdly dark with his film choosing.)

Based on a work of non-fiction by the Washington Post's Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Imperial Life in the Emerald City, with an adaptation credit applied to Brian Helgeland (Blood Work, Mystic River and The Bourne Supremacy), Greengrass' film finds itself high on octane-driven action and political intrigue, but low on character development which isn't so much of a concern with the mechanics of this film; however, lack of developed characters provides moments of political preachiness that could have otherwise been avoided. It's an oversight that is a little concerning given the talents involved with this production.

That being noted, the one character that emerges from the dusty roads of Baghdad carrying the heart of the film that adds the only emotional thrust of Green Zone; however, is also the film's secret weapon: actor Khalid Abdalla, who plays an injured Iraqi with an insight into Iraq that Miller risks his career upon. Abdalla's performance is every bit as authentic as it needs to be for the realities of a war-torn Iraq and provides the conclusion to Greengrass' film that is justifiably open and harrowingly frank; it's an ending that is satisfying for the tragic events of the story, but disappointing when faced with the actuality of an absent-minded president who only merely weeks into the war over WMD theatrically declared â"Mission Accomplished" when, in reality, the Iraqi engagement (truly, a war with no end in sight) continues on into its seventh year.


Component Grades
Movie
DVD
4 stars
4 stars
DVD Experience
4 stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - June 22, 2010
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles
: English SDH, French, Spanish
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; French: DTS 5.1; Spanish: DTS 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD); Digital copy; Bonus View (PiP); BD-Live

While it may have been largely ignored by the public (only grossed $35 million at the box office and going down as a massive roadside tragedy), Universal’s treatment of the film speaks otherwise.  Supporting a gorgeous AVC MPEG-4 transfer in 1080p/2.40:1 widescreen, Barry Ackroyd’s hand-held camerawork, in fine form throughout the movie, will visually throw you into the tense action with dynamic results.  Ultimately, the Blu-ray transfer fully pays off through its use of sound.   The DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix in English (DTS 5.1 for French and Spanish) uses multi-channel and LFE channels for superior results.  The disc is also fully enabled for D-Box, so those of you with that capability can really experience the film’s sonic field of range.

Once again, U-Control is the mode to manage your way around the disc.  This feature gives you the choice of a video commentary or an extensive PnP one, both from Greengrass and Damon. The fascinating PnP mode, allows the viewer to get their hands dirty with knowledge on how certain scenes were completed with detailed analysis.

There are some fascinating deleted scenes, too.  Scenes, as playfully described by Damon (to Greengrass’ son no less) as things “your father screwed up, kid.”  They are as follows:

Met D Dig For WMD at Tikrit University: a short scene showing another waste of time effort in finding WMDs

Mukhabarat Headquarters : a scene where Iraqis are going through Ba’athist government files, possibly exposing and losing clues to WMDs.  Miller’s team enters the area and quickly find themselves in a short skirmish.

Mosque Explosion and Returning Hamza’s Body: Saddam’s old guard are killed when a car bomb explodes.  Miller and Freddie make a mad dash to find Hamza, but arrive too late.  As a result, they must bring Hamza’s body to his widow with disastrous results.

Poundstone and Zubaidi Discuss the Plan: a dark meeting room where Poundstone promises support for Zubaidi’s political future, as well as plans for rebuilding according to the hunger for oil.

Also of note is Matt Damon: Ready for Action: a featurette that highlights how Damon worked, interacted and commanded his team of veterans.  We also get a feel for Damon’s desire for authenticity and honor.

Rounding out the featurettes is Inside the Green Zone:  While most of this is summary, you do get the feeling that Damon and Greengrass are great friends and will continue to work together…very soon.

Also included with the Blu-ray are What’s New: BD-Live Trailers, How-to Blu-ray User Guide, My Scenes Bookmarks, and (thankfully) a Digital Copy (disc).

Supplements:

Commentary Track:

  • Feature-length commentary track with Greengrass and Damon

Featurettes:

  • Matt Damon: Ready for Action
  • Inside the Green Zone

Deleted Scenes:

  • Met D Dig For WMD at Tikrit University.
  • Mukhabarat Headquarters.
  • Mosque Explosion and Returning Hamza’s Body.
  • Poundstone and Zubaidi Discuss the Plan.

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