In Theaters: Green Zone
Late into Green Zone, Paul Greengrass's gratifying if slightly garbled Hollywood treatment of the first months of the Iraq war, George Bush makes his inevitable appearance, in a clip pulled from the "Mission Accomplished" debacle. The only actual player to appear in a film filled with coy doppelgangers, Bush's visage caused a strange response to roll through the audience -- not boos or hisses but a low, mortified, neck-rolling groan. It was the kind of reaction provoked, perhaps, by the far away memory of an ill-advised seafood buffet: major buzz-kill.
Has enough time passed, already, that derision for Bush has dulled to a foggy murmur of disapproval? Has enough time passed, finally, for the horrific fraudulence of the Iraq war to be satisfyingly dramatized on screen? Relying both on the public's failing memory and the potentially galvanizing effect of horning true events into familiar genre constraints, Greengrass walks the line connecting those two questions with unusually savvy political and directorial instincts. The result is a film whose narrative impact is matched (and then, somewhat unfortunately, outpaced) by its stylistic and entertainment imperatives.
"The intel isn't right," says U.S. warrant officer Miller (Matt Damon), after completing the third raid of a reported Baghdad WMD site, one month into the war, that has turned up nothing but toilet parts and pigeon shit. It's a statement he repeats at least half a dozen times in the film's first 15 minutes, and it's all you really need to know about The Green Zone's record-straightening agenda. Miller's stubborn objections draw the attention of the Pentagon (in the supercilious form of Greg Kinnear), the CIA (a grizzled operative played by Brendan Gleeson), and the press (a Wall Street Journal reporter played by Amy Ryan). Within this quadrangle of protocol, puppetry, and independent prerogative, Greengrass sets up an investigation of the war's genesis and the botch that led to the disastrous insurgency.
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