Mission accomplished?

You know the old cliché that time heals all wounds? Well, there are certain wounds that take a bit longer to heal. Wounds of this variety are often not physical, but mental and emotional.

You know the old cliché that time heals all wounds? Well, there are certain wounds that take a bit longer to heal. Wounds of this variety are often not physical, but mental and emotional. In many of these cases, if there is an outside influence that constantly reminds you of the initial horrific injury, it can be like depriving the proverbial gaping gash from its treatment plan.

Director Paul Greengrass tread into this territory once before in 2006 with United 93, but he was fortunately able to merely skirt the lines, capturing the horrific events of 9/11 with skill and respect.

Greengrass has crossed that border again, but this time he has plunged right into offensive waters with Green Zone. Starring Matt Damon as Chief Officer Roy Miller, whose job is to find the supposed weapons of mass destruction, the film is like a slap in the face to all Americans—whether you support the war in Iraq or not.

Unapologetically anti-war, Green Zone shows us a kind of battlefield that has hardly been glamorized by Hollywood. There are those in Greengrass’ vision of the U.S. Army that are attempting to keep a moral compass, like Damon, by not killing innocent bystanders and children. Then there are those who will do anything ordered by their superiors, regardless of who it means murdering or what type of torture it takes.

Accompanied by Greengrass’ signature shaky camera, we are taken inside a prisoner-of-war camp, as individuals—most of whom, we are told, are innocent and have families—are choked, water-boarded, deprived of visual stimulation and humiliated. While this scene is only five minutes out of the 115-minute film, it is enough to make viewers want to vomit, whether because the images are so horrifyingly graphic, or because we know them to be a reflection of real events.

The plot follows along the same lines, as Miller and his team search for the WMDs that we know aren’t there—rubbing it in our face that our government effectively lied to us in order to gain support for the initial invasion. While the film is loosely inspired by journalist Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s 2006 nonfiction book Imperial Life in the Emerald City about life in the green zone in Baghdad, there are parts—like Miller’s quest—that are clearly manufactured for film.

While Damon is an arguably brilliant actor, Miller might as well be Jason Bourne, as he seems to survive against incredible odds (considering he essentially becomes an unspoken enemy for part of the U.S. Army while remaining an enemy of the army’s enemy). Despite this, he lives through it all and is able to walk away like a true badass.

Like every major political conflict, there has to be someone or something we can blame. Enter Clark Poundstone, played by Greg Kinnear, resident scapegoat. Kinnear plays the role well, considering that in the film, Poundstone is the one who lied to everyone about the existence of WMDs when his source, “Magellan” (who we later find out is a top-ranking Iraqi general), discloses that there were none. Kinnear is surprisingly good at portraying the sleazy scumbag, though at times he seems a bit over the top.

Poundstone’s political opposite in the green zone is Martin Brown of the CIA, who is also not convinced that WMDs exist. Played by Brendan Gleesan, Brown is less believable than Poundstone, and he seems less than fit for an intelligence position—though that may just be because Gleesan does an embarrassingly bad job at hiding his Irish accent.  

Instead of a film that could have been a powerful mockery of the former American government and the bamboozlement of the people invading Iraq, Green Zone falls flat as it instead attacks a military ordeal that we are still involved in.