Weapons of mass deception …

“Green Zone unfolds like a concise guide to the Iraqi War and a strident indictment of Bush and his neo-conservative cohorts” …


Weapons of mass deception

Review by S.B. TOH for THE STAR (March 6, 2010)

Excerpts : “Despatched to Iraq to find Saddam Hussein’s cache of chemical and biological weapons, Matt Damon’s WMD expert finds only intrigue and lies. He decides it’s time to man up.

Oh, for a good war. Where did they go - those uncomplicated days when belief kept you grounded however brutal the fight got? Once you had ironclad conviction in your country’s cause, and drew strength from it.

(…) But with Green Zone, we are as far away as one can be from the certainties and simplicity of World War II, America’s last great war. How things have changed.

In this Paul Greengrass movie set during the second Gulf War, a soldier comes to Iraq to find the enemy’s weapons of mass destruction but stumbles instead upon his own government’s weapons of mass deception.

(…) OMG, there are no WMD?: Matt Damon is Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller who has come to Iraq to find Saddam’s very elusive WMD.

It’s 2003, and the world is being imperiled by Saddam Hussein’s much ballyhooed stock of chemical and biological weapons, or so they say. This clear and present danger to humanity demands a decisive response, they claim.

Don’t worry, Uncle Sam has just the thing for it: Operation Shock & Awe.

And so Baghdad is lit up like fireworks in a seemingly bloodless orgy of killing delivered from on high and viewed from far, far away. A few weeks later, Chief Warrant Officer, Roy Miller (Matt Damon), rides into town to find the weapons.

The case having been made, Iraq having been invaded, the Americans must now deliver the evidence.

Miller thinks it’s a straightforward task - locate and secure, in and out, case closed. Not quite a walk in the park but close enough with the war still ongoing and all. But then Miller and his team find themselves running around in circle in the desert and in the alleys of Baghdad, kicking up dust, chasing a mirage.

Where are the damn WMD?

Is the intel they’ve been fed any good? Who is supplying the information? Do the WMD even exist?

Nobody is interested to find out, and Miller is told to just continue his wild goose chase. That’s when Matt Damon begins to morph from obedient soldier to seeker of the truth, a Jason Bourne-like character who serves, first and foremost, his own sense of integrity.

Digging for answers, Miller tumbles though the proverbial rabbit hole, and ends up finding not weapons of mass destruction, but intrigue, delusion and lies, damn lies.

As we have come to expect of Greengrass, director of two of the three superb Bourne movies, Green Zone is the thriller as political critique and morality play. As with those movies, the Greengrass universe here is disorienting, chaotic, with powerful government agencies threatening the hero and the day, but it is still an optimistic one.

That’s the remarkable thing about Greengrass - he’s never jaded, never cynical.

Decency matters, lives matter, the truth matters, and, crucially, for him, there is always room for human agency no matter how bad the situation. People can and should do something to right a wrong.


Enter Matt Damon, the thinking man’s action hero par excellence, this time as a soldier of conscience - dogged, independent-minded and nobody’s fool. His Miller may be a soldier but he’s not content to play the dummy.

It’s an eye-opening experience for him, however, as he ventures into a murky world where it’s not just the Iraqis that he has to keep an eye out for but also his fellow Americans.

This being a Greengrass movie, you can expect a lot of shaky handheld camerawork, cross-eyed close-ups and grainy footage. The more corrupt the authorities, the more frantic the camera seems to get, as if visual style and content were madly fusing in the face of a disorienting situation. With Damon in the mix, however, one feels right at home.

Green Zone unfolds like a concise guide to the Iraqi War and a strident indictment of Bush and his neo-conservative cohorts.

Through Miller’s eye, we see images that recall Abu Ghraib, even as Greg Kinnear’s oily big shot talks about bringing Iraqis democracy and a better life; we see incensed Iraqis protesting the destruction and chaos in their city, even as the Americans enjoy carefree poolside parties in their relatively secure and eminently bountiful Green Zone.

Even Bush’s infamous “mission accomplished” declaration on board an aircraft carrier is featured.

As Miller notes, there’s a disconnect between what’s happening on the ground and what’s being announced to the world.

Nobody is spared a reprimand in this movie, not least the embedded journalists. Miller’s accusatory look in the scene where he confronts Amy Ryan’s Wall Street Journal reporter, and her silence and humiliation at her complicity in pushing for the war feels like a cold pail of water down the media’s back.


That Greengrass is able to pack in so much commentary into such a fast-paced, action-packed film is nothing short of astounding. Green Zone may not match the pleasing arc of the Bourne movies as they bloomed into a Frankensteinian parable in three acts, nor the potency of the action in that series, but it holds its own as one of those rare and satisfying thrillers where ethical conduct need not be a casualty of conflicts.”

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