There used to be a time when criticising the Viet Nam war would not only get you a damn-good frowning from Uncle Sam, but could lead to rabidly patriotic officials in Langley adding your name to a list of suspicious persons with communist sympathies.
That was before the Summer of Love ™ and Full Metal Jacket of course.
For a few years any film (with the exception of Michael Moore’s relevant but raving Farenheit 9/11) which cast a negative slant on America and Britain’s poorly disguised effort to stabilise the West’s oil supply was unlikely to get made for similar reasons. But now that Dubya is a nothing more than a terrible memory with a blood-stained legacy, it seems we can expect a few more films which tackle the incovenient lack of WMDs in Iraq.
Make no mistake, this is no Apocolypse Now – but it could open the floodgates for a new generation of movies probing a conflict which continues to rumble on long after Bush headed off for a life of after dinner speaking and cutting-and-sticking.
We begin with Matt Damon’s earnest unit leader Roy Miller charging about an embattled Baghdad a few weeks after the invasion in March 2003. He and his team have the special task of locking down those potentially vilifying Weapons of Mass Destruction, yet when they draw a blank for the umpteenth time, he begins to question the intelligence being provided by an annonymous source named ‘Magellan’.
When he stumbles upon an Iraqi citizen who seems intent to help him get to the real power-brokers of Sadam’s Iraq, Miller – aided by a miscast, yet passable CIA agent in the form of Brendan Gleeson – begins to realise that everyone isn’t fighting for the same cause.
A high-paced, shaky hand-cam conspiracy actioner ensues which ticks most boxes and entertains us while making a decent stab at replicating the Bourne series.
But what prevents Green Zone as a film from rising as high as its intentions are a series of slightly uncomplicated characters who operate within rudimentary confines. Miller is implausibly perfect, as such his astute observations, eagerness to trust Iraqi civaliians and the intelligent way he question his superiors are all a little difficult to swallow. He also makes the transition from dogmatic order gobbler to renegade cell in a matter of minutes.
Greg Kinnear is similarly blunt as the cold government official trying to keep the wool over the eyes of the world and Gleeson is also an unlikely martyr to the cause.
Despite this, when the gun-battles roar, the movie threatens to escape mediocrity. As an action film it is good, but its political undertones leave a lot to be desired. Green Zone would have been groundbreaking a few years ago, but after years of conjecture, the messages seem utterly elementary. However if it signals a second coming for the genre of critical war flick, then it will not have been average in vain.