Green Zone dir Paul Greengrass. On general release from 12th March
Last year, British production company Working Title strayed beyond its natural comfort zone with dramas—notably Frost/Nixon and State Of Play—that failed to enhance parent company Universal’s bottom line. Paul Greengrass’s Green Zone might have been another such case until costly reshoots in late 2008 (its release was bumped all the way to spring 2010).
This troubled business context may be a factor in the transition from the property Working Title acquired—Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s account of the blundering postwar provisional authority in Iraq, Imperial Life in the Emerald City—into the film it has made. The marketers are trying hard to suggest a pulse-quickening military adventure from the director of The Bourne Supremacy, with a trailer that omits the words “Iraq” and “Baghdad”—and who can blame them? The Iraq war has proved toxic at the box office.
The surprise is that, for once, the marketing doesn’t lie. Green Zone really is a tense chase thriller, in which rogue CIA officer Brendan Gleeson sees the perils of Paul Bremer’s wholesale dismantling of Ba’ath power structures, and tasks American soldier Matt Damon with bringing in an Iraqi general the US authorities wish to eliminate. Happily, Greengrass’s signature gritty aesthetic—shaky handheld cameras, grainy night-vision footage—licenses the discerning cinemagoer to overlook the film’s bad faith to its source material and surrender to a big-screen guilty pleasure.