Reviewing the Rob Marshall film Memoirs of a Geisha, Roger Ebert wrote, "I suspect that the more you know about Japan and movies, the less you will enjoy Memoirs of a Geisha." This is such a useful critical rule of thumb that there ought to be a shorthand way of referring to movies fitting that description. I don't suppose we can call them Geisha movies. No, probably not.
Still, let the reader understand when I suggest that Green Zone is a Geisha movie, in the sense that the more you know about Iraq, the less you will enjoy it. I don't know a lot about Iraq, and even I know too much for this movie.
Director Paul Greengrass's biggest credits include the slick, well-made escapist thrills of two Bourne sequels and the restrained docudrama realism of United 93. Green Zone is an awkward fusion of the two. The film is situated squarely not only in the war in Iraq, but in the circumstances around the case for war. It's framed as a conspiracy-minded action thriller in which real things happen, but not in the ways or for the reasons that they really happened.
Matt Damon is back in heroic form after playing against type in Steven Soderburgh's The Informant!, returning to the role of an unstoppable warrior off reservation on a relentless quest for the truth that corrupt higher-ups don't want him to find. Greengrass's trademark shaky-cam urgency is accentuated by cinematographer Barry Ackroyd, who brought similar documentary-like rawness to The Hurt Locker.
But chief warrant officer Roy Miller (Damon) isn't on the trail of some fictional black-ops CIA organization. He's part of the 2003 U.S. effort to search for fictional weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Jason Bourne's shadowy nemesis was an agency called Treadstone; Roy Miller's is ...1
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