Directed by: Paul Greengrass
Written by:Brian Helgeland
Starring: Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Brendan Gleeson, Amy Ryan, Jason Isaacs, Khalid Abdalla
Released: March 11, 2010
Grade: A-

I really enjoyed Green Zone.  It reminded me in some ways of Blood Diamond in that yes, it’s a Hollywood-style action movie but it also contains a powerful political message.  It’s not a bad way to make a movie.  As I mentioned in my review of The Hurt Locker a few weeks ago, the wider public have tended to avoid war and/or political movies in recent years.  By packaging this as an “action” movie, I suspect its box-office strength will improve considerably.

Set in 2003, Roy Miller (Damon) is a warrant officer leading a special team of U.S. soldiers who are trying to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.  Over the past few weeks, Miller has become disenchanted with the intelligence provided by the Pentagon.  It’s clear that the sites they’ve been ordered to investigate have never once held nuclear weapons.

Miller is tired of putting the lives of his fellow soldiers in danger on these fruitless missions.  Where are the leads coming from?  It’s a question he angrily puts to Clark Poundstone (Kinnear) of Pentagon Special Intelligence.  Poundstone keeps tight-lipped.  He’s not going to reveal his sources.  He tells Miller to get back out in the field and to simply follow the orders he is given.

Something doesn’t smell right and this is soon confirmed when Miller strikes up a friendship with the CIA’s bureau chief in Baghdad (Gleeson) and a reporter from The Wall Street Journal (Ryan).  He learns that Poundstone’s top source is a person code-named “Magellan”.  No one knows his real identity.  Does he even exist?  Miller wants answers and it’s time to start doing a little investigating of his own…

Green Zone is the latest from one of my favourite directors, Paul Greengrass.  He directed the last two Bourne movies as well as United 93 and Bloody Sunday (all great films).  This is everything you’d expect from Greengrass with its adrenalin-pumping storyline and fast-paced editing.  I know not everyone’s a fan of Greengrass’s shaky camerawork (dubbed “queasy-cam”) and so if The Bourne Ultimatum left you with a headache then perhaps this isn’t the film for you.

Back in the 1980s, we had a flood of specialist action stars including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis and Jean-Claude Van Damme.  Times have changed.  Arnie is now Governor of California, Bruce has lost his hair and Jean-Claude is living in a ditch somewhere (or so I think).  No one has stepped up to plate to take their place.

Matt Damon is getting close though.  The Bourne series was incredibly popular as was The Departed (with Leonardo DiCaprio).  I know these aren’t all traditional action films (which have 50 fatalities per minute) but they’re still exciting.  Damon is a likeable actor who is well suited to this genre.  He has just the right balance of passion and believability to strengthen the characters he plays.  This again is proven by his performance here.

With a sharp script from Academy Award winning writer Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential, Mystic River), Green Zone is a strong release in what is traditionally a quiet time of the movie-going year.