Green Zone

It's 2003. Do you know where your weapons of mass destruction are?

I suppose that was a common joke back then, but luckily or not, I can't really remember back that far. Truthfully, in spite of the awesomeness that is Matt Damon, I was a little unsure about this film because I'm so terrible at keeping track of politics and current events, which is basically the entirety of the movie. It's okay, though; as I suspected, they spell everything out quite clearly for the politically challenged like me, so you have a good plot and the awesomeness that is Matt Damon. What more could you want?

Well, Matt, as Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller, wants the aforementioned WMD. He's leading one of the groups of soldiers who are chasing around Iraq hunting for the weapons caches that are out there, according to a highly placed Iraqi source code-named Magellan. Except every single site they visit contains nothing more dangerous than toilet parts. Talk about embarrassing. As Wall Street Journal reporter Lawrie Dayne (Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone) points out, the whole world is watching, and right now they're watching the U.S. Army trying to destroy the Iraqi plumbing industry.

Roy, naturally, is unhappy about this. He starts asking questions. Army bureaucracy closes ranks and insists that the source, code-named Magellan, is "solid" and "reliable". One guy even implies that maybe Roy's been going to the wrong places, which is totally the wrong excuse, because Roy knows which way north is throughout the movie. I was very impressed, but then, I can get lost twelve blocks from my house. Anyway, even though warrant officers asking pointed questions of generals is frowned upon, Roy asks, and doesn't accomplish a whole lot. He does, however, earn the attention of CIA agent Martin Brown (Brendan Gleeson, who's in the Harry Potter flicks as Professor Moody, but who I always think of as Frank from 28 Days Later, or August Nicholson from The Village, and who is a really good actor). They don't say what position Martin has, exactly, but he's referred to as a mideast expert and then promptly ignored.

Like Lawrie, Marty doesn't like what's going on, and being rudely dismissed is about the least of his problems. Pentagon guy Clark Poundstone (Captain Amazing -- I mean, Greg Kinnear) calls Marty a dinosaur, and set in his ways, which in this case seems to translate to, "He's not afraid to disagree with me very loudly and publicly, and he's making me nervous." When Roy and Marty tentatively join forces, Clark's right in there trying to mess everything up, with the help of scary Special Forces guy Briggs (Jason Isaacs -- yes, that's Lucius Malfoy under all that facial hair and attitude).

Roy is contacted by a local man (Khalid Abdalla, The Kite Runner)-- he has a very long name, but he quickly adds, "Call me Freddy," and all the native English speakers breathe a sigh of relief. He's seen something suspicious, namely lots of men armed with machine guns loitering casually down the street, which is apparently still unusual even in Baghdad; and wants to let the Army know. Roy's instinct is to trust Freddy (though that trust is about as solid as the information from "Magellan"), and when he follows the man's lead, he begins to uncover the edges of a conspiracy, and believe me, it's messy.

In the Green Zone -- the area about seven miles around the "Republican Palace", which sounds wrong on so many levels -- things are the opposite of messy. It's like Club Med, with all the comforts of home and then some, and except for the soldiers and the reporters, most Americans never leave that area. They don't see the riots over dwindling water supplies, or notice the unrest. Even Freddy, who so desperately wants to help his country, realizes that most of the Americans are hopelessly disconnected. He sums up the movie in pretty much one line: "It is not for you to decide what happens here." Except that's not what the analysts and military guys want to hear, of course. The movie's based on the book, Imperial Life in the Emerald City, and the Wizard of Oz reference is pretty apt, except in this case it's, "Pay no attention to the Pentagon guy behind the curtain."

Four and a quarter out of five idols. I docked a quarter because director Paul Greengrass just can't seem to film a movie without jostling the cameras constantly, and it's starting to bug me. But brave the motion sickness anyway -- it would be a good movie even without the awesomeness that is Matt Damon.

Image: 
Matt Damon as Roy Miller, trying to unravel the puzzle.

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