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Matt Damon in "Green Zone"

"Green Zone"; a film review by Gary Chew

GARY CHEW/Sacramento

On the propitious heels of "The Hurt Locker's" big Oscar night in Hollywood last weekend, comes now, this weekend, the new Paul Greengrass-Matt Damon movie, "Green Zone."

All those who've yet to see "The Hurt Locker" may want to stop by another cineplex, as well, and catch Greengrass's take on the consequences of occupying Iraq. But when they do, they'll find a more blatantly political position on how things were going down not long after the Iraq Invasion than what Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal allow in "Locker," although "Green Zone" is just (as they say) as action-packed---and paced: great film editing with MTV-like cinematography. Eye drops might be the thing to take with you when going to see it.

Another cautionary suggestion: you'll have to look closely during the more darkly-lit, smashingly-fast chase scenes through Baghdad ghettos, otherwise there's a chance you won't be able to tell who's chasing whom---or vice-versa.

"Zone's" script, by Brian Helgeland ("L.A. Confidential," "Mystic River"), is even more heroic in terms of a U.S. soldier rising above the ordinary in daily warfare to reach a more abstract goal, that being to get the facts in the utter chaos outside the sanctuary of a select few holed-up in Baghdad's notoriously accommodating Green Zone. It's that old, familiar battle: Truth v. Propaganda.

Director Greengrass developed his film from a novel written by Washington Post journalist, Rajiv Chandrasekaran. The book is titled: "Imperial Life in the Emerald City."

Having just come away with only an Oscar nominee nod for his recent role in "Invictus", Matt Damon has already done yeoman's service receiving a Best Lead Actor Oscar nomination in a movie for which he also received the Oscar for co-writing: "Good Will Hunting" (1997).

As U.S. Chief Warrant Officer, Roy Miller, Damon again displays his macho-hero-guy attributes. The Miller character heads-up a Mobile Exploitation Team that, as the film opens, has yet to find any Weapons of Mass Destruction at designated Iraqi sites. The gung-ho Miller, thinking much like another character Damon plays (Jason Bourne), is becoming more suspicious about whether there really are any WMD to be found. Damon is always effective, as well as affective, in a role---and the ladies love him.

Greg Kinnear and Amy Ryan

Greg Kinnear and Amy Ryan

Another reliable actor, Greg Kinnear, plays Clark Poundstone, a Pentagon Special Intelligence Officer. The role could be mistaken for the real L. Paul Bremmer, much as Pierce Brosnan's character, Adam Lang, could be Tony Blair in the new Roman Polanski film, "The Ghost Writer." By the way, if your early history on the Second Iraq War is hazy, Bremmer headed the Coalition Provisional Authority in the Bush II Administration, reporting directly to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

A second pseudo-real-person in "Zone," is a newspaper reporter played by Amy Ryan. Her character is named Lawrie Dayne not Judith Miller. And Ms. Dayne is a correspondent for the Wall Street Journal not the New York Times.

More anonymously and minus most of his Irish accent, Brendan Gleeson ("In Bruges") plays CIA Analyst, Martin Brown. Brown is at odds with Poundstone, a newer breed of U.S. spook. Brown wants the truth about WMD. Poundstone is following Pentagon orders to wag the media, so to speak. Damon's Miller must decide whether to serve Brown or Poundstone to accomplish his mission.

Miller's motivation is the less-convincing part of the script, yet important for getting to the nitty-gritty of what this very realistic-looking film---like "The Hurt Locker"---wants to impart. Another way to put it would be: Jeremy Renner's lead role in "The Hurt Locker" is that of a more plausible soldier than is Damon's in "Green Zone," although both actors turn in excellent performances.

Matt Damon

Matt Damon

Since Quentin Tarantino ("Inglorious Basterds") didn't write this script, it turns out there aren't any WMD, but I'm not laying down a spoiler here telling you that.

Shot in Morocco, Spain and the U.K., "Green Zone" may prove more successful as an Iraq War movie than such predecessors because it's überly fast-paced and highly-energized with Damon as the Man. Such ingredients have been known to sell tickets.

But "Zone" also has an obvious political message and may prove to be an antidote to Karl Rove's new book now just hitting the fan. That, all mixed together, could likely bring a response that "Zone" is un-American. Stranger things have happened in U.S. politics, and if you don't think so, just take a gander at what's going on in today's national news. (That action will work for any day you care to look.)

Anyone wanting to be more flippant in writing about "Green Zone," might remark that the title of Paul Greengrass's new film could've been "Gone With The WMD," but such recent American history won't play that tune---in any key.

"Green Zone" official site.

Opens wide Friday, 3/12.

Check Yahoo Movies-Tulsa for theaters and times.

Gary Chew can be reached at garychew@comcast.net,
Facebook.com/justin.playfair and Twitter.com/orwellingly.

Copyright © 2010, Gary Chew. All rights reserved.

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