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G is for Green Zone, Greengrass and Getting Your Own Back
Flash
lil_shepherd
We went to see Green Zone yesterday. It was a movie we have been looking forward to, because Greengrass does a mean action-thriller and, as far as I am concerned, his heart is definitely in the right place. Let me say at once that we were not disappointed, and suggest that James Cameron take a long hard look at the final action sequence, to learn how this should be done, with each faction identifiable, each motivation and action clear, and - despite the chaos of a firefight - the tactics and strategy of all totally transparent. It is also beautifully paced, and you daren't look away from the screen for a moment in case you miss something.

It is interesting that this film is a flop in the States and has been accused by Stateside critics (ours in the UK tend to like it, and so do the Aussies) of being unhistorical and over-simplifying the the political situation in Iraq.

Well, doh! I tend to see this as Greengrass getting his own back on behalf of the rest of the world! What he has actually done here is personalise a number of factions concerned in the conflict so it is almost an allegory. So we have the Washington apparatchik who lied and lied about WMDs for political ends, and fails to understand the Middle East representing the entire US and UK governments, we have the CIA agent who is an old Middle East hand, who represents those parts of the State Department, the Foreign Office, and security services who are just as ruthless but who can see the ton of shit that is about the fall on their countries, and we have one reporter representing the Press who published government spin as truth because they were lied to, and we have the Special Forces operative willing to obey orders ruthlessly because they are orders, part of a military that includes all the attitudes we saw manifested at the time. Sure, it's shorthand. So what? This is a thriller, not a history. It does, however, have historical and political points, and the fact that those points are still very uncomfortable for everyone involved in Iraq and those who supported them made the Stateside reaction inevitable.

Of course, there was no-one in the role filled by Matt Damon's Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller, heading up a team looking for WMDs and becoming more and more worried about the intelligence that is leading him to sites where there plainly could never have been WMDs and his determination to question that security leading him into the multi-faceted game being played by Iraqis and allies alike. He is also very, very unlikely to have got away without a summary Court Martial. Damon is an unlikely actor to have become a great action hero, but he is now well established in these roles, and his presence draws sympathy. Miller is a good soldier, tough and determined, but he also has that slight air of vulnerability that used to be trademarked to Harrison Ford, and he does intelligence well too. Miller may be, very occasionally, naive, but he is never stupid.

The revelation is Khalid Abdalla as "Freddy", the Iraqi who first tells Miller of the meeting that triggers the whole shebang, and is immediately co-opted as a translator. It's a clever, sensitive performance.

There are a number of decent performances from good character actors (Jason Isaacs almost hidden behind a moustache.)

The movie looks wonderful. Greengrass's hand-held camera trademark is perfect for battles and firefights, and both feel real in the run-down, battle-scarred Baghdad created from location filming in North Africa and (I suspect) carefully edited stock footage that blends in seamlessly.

The pacing is excellent, building up to an almost unbearable climax - one may know the ending (though actually, Greengrass's ending did not occur in reality) but there are still occasional surprises.

Four and a half stars.
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It's on my to see list.

fwiw, *every* Iraq war movie has flopped in the US, I think, and the LA Times critic gave Green Zone a very good review that made me wanna see it.

Of course, I also think Avatar sounds like a great movie and really wanna see it and generally think Cameron is a good director (the boringness of Abyss and the idiot thumbs up thing. at the end of T2 that damned near ruined the movie for me & the sheer waste of tossing the diamond into the water at the end of Titanic notwithstanding), so, maybe you would have thought that a bad review. *g*

Agreed w/you on Greengrass knowing how to do action/thrillers, tho.

To be frank, I think seeing Avatar would benefit from the advice given by a famous UK critic on viewing Excalibur - "Go and see it, but take your Walkman and play Wagner really, really loud." (Substitute i-Pod or MP3 player and loud music of your choice.)

Despite occasional problems which are inherent in the 3-D systems currently available (mainly in depth of focus) Avatar is an astonishing technical achievement and very, very pretty. Unfortunately, it is lacking in the scripting and acting departments, is entirely without wit or even humour, has unengaging characters, derivative worldbuilding, and is politicially naive. Cameron seems to have forgotten whatever he once knew (and he certainly did know) about pacing. The battles are predictable and boring.

Dances with Smurfs is insulting to Dances with Wolves, a much better movie, and possibly insulting to Smurfs. The comment "a remake of Ferngully" is probably more realistic.

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