Monday, April 25, 2011

The Green Zone

The Green Zone sure is an odd one. Based on how it looks and was marketed, I went into this expecting a run-and-gun sort of thriller set in Iraq near the beginning of America's involvement in Iraq. It has Matt Damon, the same director as the Bourne spy thriller movies, and a similar to approach to action within the film. It is an easy mistake to make.

But what the movie truly is is a criticism of how the Iraq war came to be. It is hard for me to gauge how effective this was, because I can go both ways on this, but I'll do my best.

The Plot

The movie's story focuses on the actions of one U.S. army squad leader (Matt Damon). He is tasked with taking his squad and searching locations that are supposed to have weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) within. As we already know, he comes up empty handed and begins to become frustrated with the American intelligence, supposedly rock solid, that keeps leading his team into areas that haven't a whiff of WMDs ever being there. Feeling misled, he tries to confront his commanders and high-up members of the United States administration about it, but is repeatedly sidelined, told to stand down, and to just take orders without questioning them.

In real life, that would probably be the end of it. But, being a movie, Matt Damon instead aligns himself with whomever can help him figure out the truth behind who is giving them faulty intel. To this end, he essentially operates on his own outside of his jurisdiction to find the truth. This results in him going behind enemy lines and flouting the authority of his superior officers in order to seek what was actually going on with the WMDs.

The Message

Now, first off, I do want to say that this movie was really exciting and kept a surprisingly tense tone throughout. It is one to keep you on the edge of your seat, and it accomplishes this well. The problem is twofold. 1. The characters are one-dimensional depictions of points-of-view. 2. The message it gives goes too far.

First off, the characters. In Green Zone, each of the characters basically represent the perspectives of entire organizations/groups of people. For example, the journalist character embodies American journalism in general during the time; the press accepted reports of WMDs in Iraq without making any real effort to check the facts until we were already there in force. Early in the movie, Matt Damon meets an Iraqi man who seeks to help the Americans, but resists when he discovers that they plan on making a deal with the Iraqi army, support an exile who has not actual support within Iraq, and when he sees a number of mistakes that the American forces make; there are a number of revealing moments when it is clear that he represents the Iraqi people in general. In another instance, the Pentagon special intelligence man in Iraq embodies the average politician of the time, seeking to achieve goals that have results that will please the American press and people, but that, in the end, make the situation in Iraq much worse for the Iraqi people. I could go on, but I just want to point out that this is a double-edged sword. I enjoyed that so many perspectives were shown, but it was a failure to characterization because each of these characters were nothing outside of these opinionated stances.

Secondly, the end message that the intelligence was fabricated by the United States higher-ups for some undefined nefarious purpose seemed like it was going too far. It is possible that this reason was convenient in persuading people to get into the war, but I seriously doubt that this was some sort of conspiracy which they sought to hush up, which is essentially the position that The Green Zone takes. I personally believe that, instead of there being a conspiracy, the leaders of America at the time were just plain stupid. There was definitely evidence that WMDs were once there, it was not far-fetched to guess that they might still be there, and thus efforts to double and triple-check intelligence reports were not made. The only reason that there would have been a conspiracy was if there was something to gain, and as we are leaving Iraq now we still haven't commandeered all their oil or made them into our democratic puppet state, so I just don't see it.


Despite my lengthy criticisms of The Green Zone, I still found it to be a very exciting movie that was additionally thought provoking. It definitely made me curious to research further into the Iraq War and how it started. And, despite what was essentially one-dimensional characters, the acting and intensity of the film made it so that I really didn't care or even notice until after I thought about it upon finishing. As far as war movies go, I would highly recommend this one.

No comments:

Post a Comment