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Vol. LXIV, No. 11
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
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For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

DRESSED TO KILL: Roy Miller (Matt Damon) is attired in his deadly regalia as he begins another day of searching for what turn out to be non existent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Green Zone: Damon Searches Desert for WMDs in Iraq War Drama

Kam Williams

President Bush’s declared reason for invading Iraq in 2003 was that the country possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD) which were a threat to the security of the United States. However, neither the military nor the CIA was able to find stockpiles of biological, chemical, or nuclear WMDs. Additionally, the official report issued by the Iraq Survey Group concluded that no weapons were in Iraq at the time of the invasion.

So, who, with the possible exception of Vice President Cheney, would find a movie describing an Army unit’s search for WMDs compelling, given that everybody already knows that it was an exercise in futility? Nonetheless, that obvious fact didn’t discourage Paul Greengrass from shooting Green Zone, a predictable storyline that poses as a political potboiler.

Since there’s no mystery about how the film is going to end, the director is desperate for ways to generate tension. So, he repeatedly resorts to the infuriating cinematic device of using a handheld camera to manufacture a false sense of urgency. Unfortunately, all he manages to achieve is to make the viewer feel dizzy.

You may recall that Greengrass also directed United 93, the anticlimactic (although critically acclaimed for its authenticity) re-creation of the flight of the plane that was hijacked on 9/11 and crashed in a Pennsylvania meadow after the passengers stormed the cabin. Because that film had nothing to offer in the way of surprises, it wasn’t an edge-of-your-seat thriller either.

Green Zone is based on the best seller Imperial Life in the Emerald City which was written by Rajiv Chandrasekaran who was stationed in Baghdad during the war as the Washington Post’s bureau chief. The film stars Matt Damon as Roy Miller, an Army warrant officer who was assigned to lead a team of soldiers to search Iraq for WMDs.

Like a modern Captain Ahab, Miller gradually morphs into a madman who become fixated on his mission. He’s even prepared to go rogue after it becomes apparent that the tips he’s been getting from a Pentagon Intelligence Officer (Greg Kinnear), through an unsuspecting Wall Street Journal reporter (Amy Ryan), are bogus.

The only thing striking about Green Zone is how tame the backdrop is for the movie. Greengrass depicts post-invasion Iraq as a relatively calm environment that is almost completely absent of improvised explosive devices, a resistance movement, or suicide bombers. This is in stark contrast to the ever present dangers that lurked around every corner in The Hurt Locker, this year’s Academy Award-winning Best Picture.

Fair (1 star). Rated R for violence and profanity. In English and Arabic with subtitles. Running time: 115 minutes. Distributor: Universal Pictures.

For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

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