If you haven’t had enough of the Iraqi War with the Oscar-winning “The Hurt Zone” and are intrigued by re-teaming of director Paul Greengrass with Matt Damon, star of his “Bourne Supremacy” and “Bourne Ultimatum,” this political thriller interweaves fact with fiction delving into the chaotic early “shock and awe” days in Baghdad in 2003.
During the American-led occupation, Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Damon) and his team of Army inspectors are dispatched to find Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction which were believed to have been stockpiled around Baghdad and in the desert. But on mission-after-mission at site-after-site, they’re coming up with nothing. Soon idealistic Miller becomes suspicious that perhaps the information they’re being fed by the Pentagon isn’t exactly accurate. But that’s not what manipulative Washington advisor Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear) wants to hear; his prime objective is to inject American-style democracy into the region. It’s also disturbing to Wall Street Journal reporter Lawrie Dayne (Amy Ryan), who echoes the Bush Administration’s false conviction about WMD’s, relying on tips from a confidential source named “Magellan.” Only skeptical CIA veteran Martin Brown (Brendan Gleeson), derided by Poundstone as a “dinosaur,” provides heroic Miller clandestine assistance to follow his rogue instincts, rather than his orders, to unearth the elaborate cover-up.
Inspired by Baghdad-based Washington Post journalist Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s “Imperial Life in the Emerald City,” screenwriter Brian Helgeland’s (“Mystic River,” “L.A. Confidential”) dated, dumbed-down script incorporates much of the convoluted, war-scarred misconceptions, misrepresentations and miscalculations from Charles Ferguson’s documentary “No End in Sight” (2007). While names have been changed, it’s obvious that smarmy Poundstone is Paul Brenner and duped Dayne is former New York Times correspondent Judith Miller. In addition to his “Bourne” escapades, Paul Greengrass helmed “Black Sunday” and “United 93,” so he’s got gritty credentials, but “Hurt Locker” cinematographer Barry Ackroyd repeats the grainy, shaky, chaotic, ultra-realistic camerawork for which he just won his Academy Award.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Green Zone” is a far-fetched, flawed 5, tempting cynical wags to dub it “Bourne in Iraq.”