film review: Green Zone (2010)


Green Zone poster Matt Damon
Every review I’ve seen of Green Zone mentions the Bourne films. This one is no exception. It’s not really that surprising though, it’s all over the poster and they share a star and a director, well the last two do anyway. To me that’s where the similarity ends. Well… ok, there’s the whole annoying shaky camera thing but that’s it. This is not Bourne 4: The Bourne War.

Which may disappoint people. Personally though, I don’t really remember the Bourne movies all that well so it’s neither here nor there. I do have a vague memory that there were some great one-on-one fights scenes and that they reminded me of Bond so… nothing like Green Zone then.

Green Zone is basically a mystery set in a war. Matt Damon is the star but it’s not really just about Matt Damon, it’s more like Body of Lies. It’s not about the guy doing the hunting. It’s about what he’s hunting. Well, it’s not really about what he’s hunting – he’s hunting them ol’ WMDs – it’s about why he’s hunting them. Yeah. That’s basically what it’s about. BTW it may seem like I’m giving stuff away but I’m really not. There aren’t any spoilers in this review.

I didn’t really like Green Zone. It held my attention and it was enjoyable enough. It was actually a pretty decent movie, I just didn’t like it.

I found the shooting style really annoying and the convoluted way the story unfolded was irritating. It’s a shame because I actually think all the actors did a good job and their characters were all fairly sufficiently framed and explained. Well almost all of them were anyway. Plus with Invictus and now this, I’m really starting to like Mr. Damon. But the plot development and the shooting style aren’t the reason I didn’t really like it, there was just something about it that just didn’t fly with me. Two things actually.

First of all, I didn’t find it very believable. Obviously it was believable that he never found those pesky WMDs… but I didn’t find it believable that a solider like the one Damon was portraying, would be so pissed off as to do something about it. I guess I always think of soldiers as people who took pride in following orders. Nothing wrong with that by the way. I’m no anarchist. But it just seemed a bit far fetched. It’s possible that this was just the type of soldier that Miller is but we certainly weren’t shown that beforehand.

Maybe we’re just supposed to infer it from how he acts later on but to me, it just wasn’t believable. If he was some kind of maverick then how did he get to the level he was at? And if he’s not some kind of maverick then he must have had some strong moral core that we haven’t seen. I didn’t like having to make up a character from his runnings around. It distracted from story and it was confusing. Why was he bothered doing the running around in the first place?

Secondly, and I guess this is really why I didn’t like. I thought it was a bit simplistic. Soldier is annoyed about the lack of WMDs, soldier meets a couple of people and tries to solve this annoyance. I would have thought there’d be a lot more to the story of the lack of WMDs in Iraq. I know there’s a lot more to this story.

I can understand taking a vignette of a wider story and turning it into a film – that’s basically what The Hurt Locker did – but that doesn’t feel like what they’ve tried to do here. It’s like they tried to make a wider story into a simple action hero story, found it didn’t fit and made it into a action mystery instead. It’s a complicated issue and I just think that they were paying lip service to it.

Which is not to say that I wanted to see some kind of political thriller. Just that there was a lack of balance to this film. I said in my review of Body of Lies that I was pleasantly surprised, it wasn’t my kind of film but I liked it because of the balance in the story. This is exactly what Green Zone lacked. It felt like a bit it was see-sawing between action, war, drama and thriller without enough of any. Ok that’s a bit of a complicated see-saw but you know what I mean.

These two problems I had, coupled with the annoying camera work and messy plot progression (ironic in a story which I said was too simple), made for a film that I didn’t really like. To be honest if it wasn’t for the camera work and the messy plot then I probably would have overlooked the two other problems and just let the movie wash over but as it was I couldn’t. It was all just off for me.

That all said, I’m not going to say “Don’t go see it”. I never really say don’t go see a film. Just don’t go expecting an intriguing complex investigation into the Iraq war and the reasons behind it. Or Bourne 4: The Bourne War, it’s not that either. At best it’s an entertaining mystery film with some good action scenes thrown in. I just couldn’t see it at its best.



  1. comment-avatar
    NiallMarch 21, 2010 - 9:39 pm

    I can see where you’re coming from, but personally I thought it was really rather good indeed. Nice job though.

  2. comment-avatar
    Nicola-tMarch 21, 2010 - 10:08 pm

    Yeah… I feel like I was a bit mean about it because I enjoyed it enough at the time. But I just couldn’t bring myself to be in any way enthusiastic about it… and when I looked closely at it (i.e. while writing the review) I just couldn’t find anything I really liked about it, just things I didn’t like.

    Did you see Body of Lies by the way? If so, what did you think of it?

  3. comment-avatar
    NiallMarch 21, 2010 - 10:17 pm

    I couldn’t really believe in the characters or events of Body of Lies. It was fine film-making, it just didn’t engage me. I remember being disappointed at the time and I haven’t watched it since.

  4. comment-avatar
    Olive O'BrienMarch 22, 2010 - 5:07 pm

    Definitely agree with the review and would have given it same marks. Love what they tried to do, but it just didn’t really work for me. It was just so-so.

  5. comment-avatar
    DanFebruary 26, 2011 - 11:50 pm

    I’m beginning to think Greengrass is rather overrated. He has technical flair but Green Zone lacks character or depth. The story is based on something everybody knows already so it isn’t like some big expose or anything, and with the likes of The Hurt Locker and other much better films about Iraq out there (Three Kings), Green Zone is destined to sink quietly into the background.

    The final shot of the oil refinery highlights its rather superficial convictions. Good review.

Leave your comment


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to Top