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STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
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POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Matt Damon
Amy Ryan
Greg Kinnear
Jason Isaacs.
Directors
Paul Greengrass.
Screenwriters
Paul Greengrass
Brian Helgeland.
Running Time
115 minutes

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Green Zone
No WMD? WTF? The Bourne boys take aim at real life


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Plot
Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Damon) is posted to Iraq to justify the US invasion by finding weapons of mass destruction. With his search proving fruitless, he starts asking tricky questions, and soon even his own side are out to kill him...


Review
Green Zone
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Like Halley's Comet, Wembley Stadium and Peter North, Green Zone has been a long time coming. Three years in the making, it’s been subject to rewrites and reshoots and rumours.

But this is the standard MO of Paul Greengrass: cinema like sculpture — chiselling and chipping ’til the image emerges. And
when it does, as we’ve come to expect, it’s striking. So, three years since Bourne’s Ultimatum, since Greengrass and Damon sent that amnesiac assassin on his last (ever?) adventure, is this Bourne in Baghdad? Well, he looks a lot like him. Damon’s Miller is tough, able and keeps asking questions. The primary one isn’t,  of course, “Who am I?” Here it’s, “Where are they?” “They” are weapons of mass destruction, the reason given by Bush and Blair to justify the invasion of Iraq...

With Tony having recently given an Oscar-worthy performance (OTT, grandiose, self-satisfied) at the Chilcot Inquiry into what the hell we were doing there, Green Zone’s delay has made
it, paradoxically, feel more relevant. Greengrass has always had an eye for hot-button issues. Back in the ’80s — when Hollywood was as far away from him as Mars — he co-wrote the book Spycatcher, an inside story of MI5 so explosive Thatcher tried to ban it. He learnt his storytelling trade on current affairs show World In Action. He caught the Bourne producers’ eye with Irish Troubles drama Bloody Sunday.

So, when he read Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s superb account of the struggles and strain of the ill-prepared occupation — Imperial Life In The Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone — he must have felt a kindred spirit at work. He then proceeded to tear
it up. Because a faithful adaptation of Chandrasekaran’s book would have played more like All The President’s Men meets The Office, with the addition of roadside bombs.

Instead, Greengrass has married politics with popcorn. Yes, Green Zone has substance, but it is, first and foremost, a breakneck action film — tense, frenetic and exciting.
Damon is perfectly cast, not just for his now undoubted physical prowess — he can knock heads with anyone, come out bloody but unbowed — but because of his integrity. It was crucial to cast someone who wouldn’t showboat through the slaughter, reducing the real-life tragedy to dashing heroics and glib action prowess. Here is an actor who shows the blows not just to his body, but to his mind. He is playing a patriot — not a left-leaning hand-wringer, but a soldier determined to do his duty, struggling to believe the incompetence or malice that surrounds him.

In that sense of bewilderment — of innocence under attack — Green Zone shares as much with Wrong Man thrillers such as The 39 Steps and Three Days Of The Condor as it does with contemporary conflict pics such as The Hurt Locker. Although it does share its cinematographer (Barry Ackroyd) with that last movie, and its pure sense of immediacy. You’re bustled, bundled and blown through the action, dropped onto the streets of Baghdad and left fending off fear.

Amy Ryan, so brilliant in The Wire and Gone Baby Gone, is frustratingly wasted here, her journalist considerably more compelling in the first draft than the caricature of the final cut. Otherwise, though, Damon is supported by a superb cast. Jason Issacs’ hardnut nemesis is a terrific foe, a man equally able and introduced in a fantastically economic sequence that ends with Damon flat on his ass. And Brendan Gleeson, consistently the best thing in everything he does (In Bruges and this month’s Perrier’s Bounty in particular) provides both handy exposition and tantalising complexity as a CIA operative.

The flaw of the film is the inevitable need — in a big-budget, American-financed film — to provide clarity and some closure. There’s an unshakeable sense that degrees of ambiguity have been sacrificed in the protracted production — as if certain characters have been forced to become black or white, when the primary colour in Green Zone really should be grey.

There is a murky morality in the whole sorry saga of Iraq. Some of the motivation is money, some of it is a genuine — if confused — desire for good. Reel can’t quite match real in portraying this aspect, but Green Zone will nevertheless provoke thoughts as well as thrills — it’s an honest, compelling, smart blockbuster that dares to deliver on several levels. And in that, at the very least, star and director are bang on target.


Verdict
Bourne goes epic. A wham-bam actioner, but its pointed political subtext ensures Damon and Greengrass deliver their most provocative mission yet.


Reviewed by Mark Dinning

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Green Zone
Empire Star Rating

Green Zone

Three years after the huge success of the Bourne trilogy’s final instalment, Paul Greengrass and his star Matt Damon returned with this conspiracy action thriller set just after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. It focuses on Damon and his team’s searches for Weapons of Mass Destruction to no avail. It is as Damon begins to question his own side that he meets Brendan Gleeson’s Middle East expert; who also suspects that something is not quite right. The second act of Greengrass̵... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Coens and Coppola at 18:36, 28 May 2013 | Report This Post


Green Zone Review

Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass return to the propulsive action and visceral editing of the Bourne films with a political subtext, but a cliched script keep those methods from being as they should be, but still a very enjoyable film. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by the film man at 22:10, 04 March 2012 | Report This Post


Wat a show UNMISSABLE ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Ciaran McDaid at 13:45, 08 November 2011 | Report This Post


Insipid

Dull, dull, dull. Simplistic and cliched. A watered down Three Kings meets a watered down Generation Kill. A total waste of talent and a pointless waste of two hours of my time. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Caster at 19:51, 11 May 2011 | Report This Post


Excellent. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by reminn at 11:56, 03 November 2010 | Report This Post


ok

The action is very well done and the scene where Matt & Co drive into the Green Zone from the rundown mess of central Baghdad and wind up at a pool where the press and politicians hang out which looks like it's been dropped in from Disneyland really makes its point, but the ending is rushed and smacks of wishful thinking. I can't help feeling that there's a director's cut waiting to be made where Amy Ryan and Brendan Gleeson's characters will be much-expanded and the ending much more ambigio... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Spacegoat at 10:51, 28 August 2010 | Report This Post


ok

thought this would be better, greg k is rubbish totally miscast. Matt D is awesome and muscular. all in all bourne light and suffers from the same problem valkary did - you know exactly what is going to happen, even the actors seemed to struggle with the 'twist' that there are no WMD. could have been a hurt locker but is too simple to be affective. not a poor film though so 3 stars ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by a123matt at 13:33, 26 July 2010 | Report This Post


Iraq Gets Turned into a Blockbuster

Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller is posted to Iraq to justify the US invasion by finding weapons of mass destruction. With his search proving fruitless, he starts asking tricky questions, and soon even his own side are out to kill him. Green Zone may have taken a while to get through production, but with Tony Blair's Oscar worthy performance at the Chilcot Inquiry, as to what we were doing in Iraq in the first place, Green Zone is Greengrass' most topical to date. Matt Damon, always a favo... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by COLO at 10:13, 16 July 2010 | Report This Post


It Was... Okay

I wasn't complety won over by Green Zone. Sure, it has it's fair share of action scenes and edge of your seat moments along with good pefomances from Matt Damon as the lead and Jason Issacs as the foe out to get him. But the storyline seemed a little weak to me, the shaky camera work is like something out of a docermenty on Sky or something and the final ten minutes or so was rushed. One to check out to watch but it's not something I would see again and again. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by joanna likes films at 09:35, 04 July 2010 | Report This Post


It Was... Okay

I wasn't complety won over by Green Zone. Sure, it has it's fair share of action scenes and edge of your seat moments along with good pefomances from Matt Damon as the lead and Jason Issacs as the foe out to get him. But the storyline seemed a little weak to me, the shaky camera work is like something out of a docermenty on Sky or something and the final ten minutes or so was rushed. One to check out to watch but it's not something I would see again and again. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by joanna likes films at 09:35, 04 July 2010 | Report This Post


watch THE HURT LOCKER instead

amy ryan was amazing in GONE BABY GONE but she gets no chance to shine here matt damon was the opposite of jeremy renner in THE HURT LOCKER we never knew what was going to happen to renner he could get killed at any second damon is a movie star like cruise he won't get killed off as a surprise greg kinnear gave a good performance he had that sneaky hal holbrook look about him up to something jason isaacs had a great introduction one slap and jason bourne is on the flat of his back ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bill the butcher at 14:25, 02 July 2010 | Report This Post


Green Zone

The mix between poltical and action thriller dosent quite and although uneven it once again proves that Greengrass is one of the best directors working in current mainstream cinema. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Soprano168 at 20:50, 13 May 2010 | Report This Post


Green Zone

The mix between poltical and action thriller dosent quite and although uneven it once again proves that Greengrass is one of the best directors working in current mainstream cinema. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Soprano168 at 20:50, 13 May 2010 | Report This Post


Full of action and provocatively exciting. Real good stuff. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by nc_jj at 04:50, 15 April 2010 | Report This Post


Terrific action with satisfying substance

This film consists of a beautiful mix of terrific action and satisfying substance that you will surely find irresistible and one which creates a wholly enjoyable experience. Green Zone has that everyone-is-involved-and-dedicated feel to it. The film's writers know how to create one hell of a poltical actioner, the actors (while having considerably less to do than usual because of the script's emphasis on plot and themes) are undeniably dedicated and Paul Greengrass uses his trademark gritty and... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by djphilips at 10:01, 10 April 2010 | Report This Post


RE: GreenZone

ORIGINAL: demoncleanert=calibri] t=calibri]It certainly won't be a film that will encourage any debate.  Or, if I'm honest, sow any seeds of curiosity in modern Iraq at all.  It's anti-climatic before it even got started because my 5 year old niece knows there were no WMD's, the dogs on the street know it.  There's an idea in the film that's repeated twice, that there was no interest in verifying the lie.  Again, everyone knows that too. The hypocrisy that we all share ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Axel Foley at 14:01, 02 April 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Green Zone

Green Zone is an interesting paradox-it's an action film where the plot is more involving than the action. All the dialogue-heavy scenes are interesting, well written and (almost) all relevant to the plot, where the big mystery isn't "Are there WMDs?" (Because we already know that there aren't), it's "Why doesn't anyone check facts before reporting them?" The big mystery of the film is who the informant is, and the scenes leading up to the reveal left me literally on the edge of my seat. Unf... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Rebel scum at 16:12, 23 March 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Green Zone

I think there are two main problems with Green Zone. The first is that is structured as a conspiracy thriller where there's zero mystery for the audience, the second is that Damon's Roy Miller is ahead of the curve anyway as he's introduced - it's like he's halfway through his character arc already. Damon once again though demonstrates why he's Greengrass's action hero of choice: managing to embody a potentially very flat character with integrity and a moral core. I'm under the impression ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Captain Black at 18:33, 22 March 2010 | Report This Post


Good fun, realistic action, ok acting

Green Zone is a very fun and at the same time thought provoking war film dealing with a soldier in Iraq who want to know why they cannot find WMD's. It has a good lead on Matt Damon, who keeps the film going with little effort. The supporting cast was good in Greg Kinnear, Brendan Gleeson and Jason Isaacs. Gleeson's accent sounded really forced but was still a good performance. The story is ok, not bad, and the action is pretty realistic, with the explosions and shots both looking and sounding l... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by joeymcf at 18:01, 22 March 2010 | Report This Post


RE: CONTAINS SPOILERS.....

Harsh, but i have to agree. Greengrass isn't a terrible director, but I think he went overboard with this. Every director does it at one point (some just do it all the time, like Michael Bay), so i think he needs to go back to the drawing board and think of something else to make - without Matt Damon, maybe? ... More

Posted by robwillphill at 20:17, 21 March 2010 | Report This Post


CONTAINS SPOILERS.....

Someone should drag Paul Greengrass back to film school and show him how to actually make a damn movie........shake the camera around a bit/edit...shake the camera around some more/edit....shake it around some more/edit. Christ - I was hoping that the camera would stay still just for a second so that we could actually try and engage with what was happening on screen. As a political tract this film fails miserably, boiling down the complex action and the intense geopolitics into a simple good guy... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ROTGUT at 14:56, 20 March 2010 | Report This Post


RE: GreenZone

Bourne at war. Shakey cam was slightly too excessive but I watched this on a Friday night with some mates, so I enjoyed it quite a bit. L: moviemaniac2 Greengrass has seemingly mastered the knack of making two hours in a cinema seat feel like about twenty minutes - leaving everyone with their head spinning around as the final credits role. Hardly the explosion-a-minute action-fest the trailers would have you believe, Green Zone is instead a blockbuster with brains - and some explosi... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by robwillphill at 20:17, 18 March 2010 | Report This Post


Used short reply by mistake,anyway I give it 3 stars! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Dr Lenera at 17:56, 18 March 2010 | Report This Post


Used short reply by mistake,anyway I give it 3 stars! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Dr Lenera at 17:56, 18 March 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Uncharacteristically Average?

The premise of an action thriller revolving around a hunt for WMDs was a shaky one and Paul Greengrass and his writer Brian Helgeland haven't really cracked it, although they do give it a decent try aand Green Zone certainly does hold the attention and grips throughout most of it's running time. Opening with a gun skirmish, we are hurled into the confusion that is postwar Iraq, and probably the film's greatest achievement is that we really feel that we are there, it's extremely convincing. Su... More

Posted by Dr Lenera at 17:55, 18 March 2010 | Report This Post


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