Russell Baillie writes about movies for the Herald

Green Zone

Rating: * * * *

Verdict: Bourne blasts Baghdad with exciting, if simplistic, results.

Paul Greengrass has done shock and awe before. There's been his charged docudramas of Bloody Sunday, Omagh, and United 93 on one side of the English director's CV, and the the action masterclasses of the last two Bourne films on the other.

Here, his two approaches meet explosively for a movie that attempts to set big-bang escapism against real-world politics.

It comes, complete with Jason Bourne himself, Matt Damon, playing a US army officer tasked with finding the weapons of mass destruction the Iraq War was based on.

After another fruitless raid, he's soon wondering if the bird poop-covered empty warehouseshis squad keep searching for WMD in are in fact evidence of a wild goose chase.

It's a fictionalised but credible depiction of life in "mission accomplished" occupied Baghdad in 2003, unrecognisably based on Rajiv Chandrasekaran's acclaimed book about the early days of the occupation Imperial Life In The Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone.

The book might inform the politics - and give rise to composite characters like Greg Kinnear's Pentagon man Clark Poundstone, and Amy Ryan's Wall Street Journal reporter whose stories have carried Poundstone's non-attributed company line about the existence of Saddam's WMDs - but add in Brendan Gleeson's CIA sceptical guy, and the story builds up a convincing conspiracy backdrop for Damon's Miller to be The Only Guy Who Really Gets It.

There are times when the participants, who include a wanted Iraqi general Miller spends much of the movie pursuing, are making statements of the painfully obvious. And while the film is at pains to depict and explain a complex political situation, too many of its characters are drawn as good or bad. As well, the denouement feels way too tidy.

But it's still a mighty impressive espionage thriller in a Bourne-by-way-of-Black Hawk Down kind of way. Greengrass's run-for-your-life-cam and machine gun editing are in full effect, especially in the final showdown on the darkened streets of a no-go zone.

And it's the Bourne action factor rather than its searing indictment of the great WMD fibs that makes this the first Iraq War movie that doesn't need a Best Picture Oscar before anyone will go see it.

Russell Baillie

Cast: Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Amy Ryan, Brendan Gleeson Director: Paul Greengrass
Rating: M (violence and offensive language)
Running time: 115 mins

- NZ Herald

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