Green Zone is set in Iraq around the time of Bush’s now infamous speech aboard USS Abraham Lincoln where he infamously stated – “In the Battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.” As my knowledge of Iraqi politics is probably only equalled in its paucity by my knowledge of quantum physics (i.e. it’s non-existent), I can’t vouch as to how accurate or inaccurate an analysis the film’s depiction is of the major political blunders made by the American administration following the downfall of Saddam’s regime and the years of political and sectarian strife in that country which have occurred as a result. However, the film’s argument that those in charge of deciding what was to become of a now Saddam-free Iraq were culturally, politically and physically cut off from the realities on the ground is made most eloquently throughout the film.
While Iraqi civilians are struggling for access to the most basic of necessities such as water and electricity, Westerners are holed up in the Green Zone, physically cut off from the rest of the city and seemingly enjoying the life of Riley at the former Palace complex of Saddam Hussein. Iraqis may find it difficult to access water but in the Green Zone, CIA, journalists and soldiers languish by a swimming pool in the sun.
The film argues that the American administration’s decision to put in place a former political émigré who has no real support within Iraq to front the new regime; coupled with the American administration’s refusal to work with any elements of the Iraqi army as well as its refusal to take proper account of the various, religious and cultural elements within the country are what inexorably lead to the internal conflicts which have come to plague Iraq ever since.
Against this political backdrop Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Matt Damon) leads a team of American soldiers sent out to find Saddam’s WMDs. However, despite the apparent detailed intelligence at hand their searches prove fruitless. When Miller raises this point to his superiors, his complaints fall on deaf ears. However his assertion that the intelligence is inaccurate attracts the attention of a CIA operative Martin Brown (Brendan Gleeson) and they join forces. Although they don’t find any WMDs, they soon find evidence of a major cover up involving a top US official as well as the inadvertent involvement of a journalist from the Wall Street Journal, Lawrie Dayne (Amy Ryan) who had initially reported the existence of WMDs in Iraq. As Miller and Brown try to track down the truth they come into conflict with elements of their own administration, whose lead enforcer is special forces operative Briggs played by Jason Isaacs sporting what would seem to be the kind of moustache a 70s porn star would have been proud of (not that I’d know of course).
Did I enjoy the film – in one sense yes I did. In another I was on tenterhooks for almost half of it and the suspense was killing me. You really didn’t know what was going to happen next and I kept thinking that any minute now it wasn’t going to end well for Matt Damon’s character. The film is fast moving, wonderfully shot and brilliantly edited and it really does keep you on the edge of your seat, particularly during the final action sequence. Moreover, underlining the whole film is the sense that its depiction of Iraq and all the elements at play here have a sad ring of truth to it. No doubt this is due in no small measure to the film’s source material, the book by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, a former Baghdad bureau chief of the Washington Post.
It’s well worth a watch. Miller’s entreaty at the end of the film to the Pentagon Special Intelligence Officer, Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear) as to who will now trust America, given the deception perpetrated by the American administration with regard to the war in Iraq, is both heartfelt and prescient. Unfortunately, Poundstone’s indifference to the question also seems to have a sad ring of truth to it.
So if you like actions films which also make you think then this film is ideal. It also has that amazing Irish actor, Brendan Gleeson, playing one of the protagonists. And that’s always got to be a plus for any film.
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