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Ten Word or Less Review: The Blah Conspiracy

Most great directors have a great screw up on their resume.  A movie that wrecks all notions about the talent and skill they are believed to possess and causes all parties to rethink the praise that has been heaped on them until this point.  Whatever that screw up is for Paul Greengrass will be much more fascinating than “The Green Zone”, because this is merely a repetitious and boring misfire.   A colossal waste of effort it may be, but uniquely terrible and destructive it’s not.  It’s merely a thunderous exercise in instantly outdated political observations and tired action beats that take the audience nowhere that the nightly news didn’t already years ago.

The pairing of Greengrass and star Matt Damon has to date provided viewers with two classic action vehicles in the Bourne franchise, “Supremacy” and “Ultimatum”.  Their first outing away from those tales of amnesia and espionage leaves both star and director fishing for a purpose and not finding one.  Damon plays Sgt. Miller, part of a WMD investigation team in the opening weeks of the Iraqi war campaign.  Miller is growing frustrated with the lack of results as he and his team follow intel which lead them to nothing but dead ends.  Signs start to point to questionable sources and a chain of command with dubious agendas.  In short, the movie regurgitates the well documented intelligence failures pertaining to Saddam and his non-existent WMD programs.  “Green Zone” doesn’t expand or elaborate on any points of these lightly disputed issues, thus it leaves itself, and the audience, nowhere to go that isn’t already abundantly clear.  Instead of using these already well mined talking points as a precipice for leaping off into something else, “Green Zone” does little more than fan the same flame of political outrage waved back in 2003.  There are no mysteries or revelations forthcoming to draw in the audience further, just Greengrass and his hammering bombast which beat the viewer to a tired pulp.

The abrasive and edgy editorial styles of director Greengrass have occasionally proved to be too much for some viewers.  His insistence on stress inducing, shaky cam points of view have often toyed with visual overkill, i.e. your eyes flirt with falling out of your head, but he’s never failed to make the style work with the material until now.  “Green Zone” feels one dimensional and dull on all sides.  The groundbreaking action notes he helped define with his Bourne movies, and “United 93”, feel repetitive, lacking initiative and rote here. His style losses all finesse as his screenplay mechanically turns from one page to the next, lacking any moments of pathos or character worth noting.  “Green Zone” becomes an increasingly frustrating, thunderous chore to sit through as it plods along to its ending of forgone conclusions.  As the first hour wound down a certain amount of navel gazing and shoe staring over took this viewer and by the time the film ended a sensation of mercy felt bestowed.

More than any viewer can be, Matt Damon looks trapped most of all.  I don’t doubt his commitment to the material or to his director, but he has no character to play.  Miller is just another in Hollywood’s long line of righteous do-gooders who lack real characteristics beyond superficial nobility.  He’s a man who wants to do right in a wrong situation, but the movie’s lack of imaginative scope renders his journey pointless from the first step.  We know how this story ends regardless of what he does.  So what does it matter what he does?  A stable full of very able supporting actors, Brendon Gleseon, Greg Kinnear, deliver their routine dialog for their routine roles with as much skill and gusto as they can, but like Damon, no contribution on their part can lift this sluggish material off the floor.

In an age where information can be disseminated and analyzed within minutes of its exposure, floundering away effort on years old talking points while bringing no new opinion or thoughts to light seems exceptionally short sighted and wasteful.  “The Green Zone” turns out to be just one more unfortunate strike against Iraqi War films.  Instead of a political firecracker that explodes the film is merely a smelly smoke bomb that makes your eyes water.  Why Greengrass and Damon choose to expend this kind of effort on such a tired subject is anyone’s guess.

Related To: Just about every other movie about the Iraqi war.

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