Director Paul Greengrass loves his shaky, handheld camera and his mastery over the style is easily Green Zone’s strongest point. There’s plenty of amazing imagery to observe in the fast-paced war film and even though the camera rarely settles down long enough for the audience to actually focus on the frenetic events, the intensity never rests. As for the story, it too rarely ebbs in pacing but the political heaviness does weigh it down from being as satisfactory as most cut and dried battles between good and evil. Sometimes it pays to be the bad guy, but when the finger is unceremoniously pointed at you it seems to take the fun out of it.
U.S. Army officer Roy Miller (Matt Damon) meticulously scours the Iraqi war zone in his quest to find and destroy WMD’s (weapons of mass destruction). As faulty intel from his superiors continually leads Miller and his men to bogus sites, the determined officer decides to take matters into his own hands and begins to dig deeper to locate the source of the inaccurate information. When his search leads him to “Magellan”, an informant no one has ever seen, Miller must join forces with a headstrong CIA agent (Brendan Gleeson as Martin Brown) and a persistent newspaper reporter (Amy Ryan) to uncover the heavily guarded secrets of a devastating war.
Paul Greengrass’ trademark is the jerky camera paired with a million cuts and frequent angle changes. It’s breakneck, hard to focus on, disorienting and effectively puts you in the middle of the action. For many, it’s as close to the tumultuous realism of being on the battlefield as they could ever get. In Green Zone, the gunfire, shootouts, explosions, screams and thrilling chase sequences are amplified to an impressive extent by this cinematography technique, doused in plenty of dimly glowing night-vision, lightless alleys and grainy surroundings. Matt Damon’s cursing is also a welcome surprise; for once, Bourne isn’t afraid to say what’s really on his mind.
Miller is the kind of soldier to ask too many questions, to challenge authority and disobey orders. That’s how missions get accomplished. The reasons behind duties don’t matter for most soldiers in the 85th WMD unit, but Miller stands out and in order for us to truly side with him, he turns rogue. The shame is that since both the army and the U.S. government are the villains, only someone working against them can be the hero – although he still has to be American, save lives and obey an unspoken code of honor for tough guys. “I thought we were all on the same side,” admits Miller. “Don’t be naïve,” counters Martin with just the smallest hint of regret in his eyes. The idea of warring factions, erroneous communication and bogus intel amongst troops, agencies and the presidency that are supposed to be working together, could have been enough of a conflict for audiences; but in the end, a heavy-handed, blaring political message overwhelms the pure entertainment value of the adventure.
– The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)