This Friday (March 12) Matt Damon is back to his badass running, gunning and thinking ways with Green Zone. The handsome Oscar-ino (for Best Original Screenplay) teams up with Bourne episodes 2 and 3 director Paul Greengrass for this political blow 'em up.
Set in the early days of the US occupation of Iraq, the story follows Damon's Roy Miller, a warrant officer specializing in biological, chemical and nuclear arms, as he searches for the casus belli of the conflict: them pesky WMD. Along the way, he uses the term "WMD" almost as regularly as Liz Tuccillo and Greg Behrendt write, "he's just not that into you," in their opus He's Just Not That Into You. Amongst the wash of Kalashnikov rifles, Blackhawk helicopters and DC departmental infighting is a pretty standard story of a moral man trying to do the right thing in a world of an unraveling sanity and conflicting priorities.
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While a flick doesn't have to be an out-and-out romance, some love interest reminds the daters that, yep, we're on a date. While the protean Amy Ryan does a great job as the journalist who helped sell the war to the American people there is intentionally no chemistry between her and Damon's character. Their mutual need for each other is mildly contemptuous.
Perhaps it's the lack of nuance, but none of the characters come across as particularly likable or sympathetic, which is a major stretch for Greg Kinnear as the Pentagon's top man on the ground.
The one laugh during the screening I attended was when a diminutive fellow sitting behind me asked that I tame my crazy, rat's nest of a hairdo as it was blocking his view of the screen. Greengrass, with good reason, decided to treat a serious topic very, very seriously despite gallows humor being a real specialty of our fighting men and women.
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Finally, was Green Zone entertaining? Greengrass's kinetic camerawork, pacing and misdirection make the movie engaging if not mostly enjoyable.
By the calculus above, it would be a major stretch to call Green Zone a date movie despite Matt Damon's solid performance in the polemic. Frankly, the only couple who is going to get hot and bothered, in a positive way, are rabid, day-one opponents of the Iraq war and fervent critics of the Bush administration. Perhaps it's not a coincidence that the only film set in the current Iraq war to garner much critical or box-office praise is also the least political. Can A Democrat Love A Republican?