Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Movie Review: Green Zone

The movie Green Zone with Matt Damon and made by the team that made 2 of the 3 Bourne movies is lossely based on the book Imperial Life in the Emerald City.  Until the action starts.

I loved this movie. In contract to The Hurt Locker, this is a very likeable film. It really shows the chaos and infighting on the ground after Saddam was removed from power in Iraq. Everything but the ending matches my own understanding of this period. And the combat is great.

What did I like?
The story is great.  It really gives the viewer a spectacular view into the frustrations of this time and place.  It also shows that it really is Iraq who can fix Iraq, no matter how hard we try for them.  They need to get over themselves.  1 minute you have kids thanking you and shaking your hand, the next they are shooting AKs at you.  Most of them didn't really even know why they were doing it.  It is just part of their violent society.  Everyone owned an AK and everyone shoots at foreigners.

Having read America's Secret War, Ghost Wars and Magelan's own book, I was keen to see how true to fact this story stayed and what, if any, was the underlaying message of the movie.

The camera work is good.  At times you are seeing polished hollywood clarify and angles and at other times it dim lit alleys at night on what appears to be handheld cams carried by one of the characters.  Probably not so, but it could have been.  A lot of 1st person view during the combat it always good.

The scenery and sets are awesome.  The opening scene of the Baghdad nightline during the initial moments of the war with it experiencing the Shock and Awe is messmerising.  Just as it was while watching it for real that day it happened.  I remember being glued to the TV for almost 2 days.  I felt the same watching this section of the movie.  I also felt really glad I have gone to watch the movie on 1 of the biggest cinema screens in my city.  In fact all the way through the movie I felt good about that decision.  Frequently they pan out to 6 or so floors up above the ground before they move to the next scene.  Here we see areas of the Green Zone on the banks of the river that cuts Baghdad in half.  You see bombed out administration buildings, columns of smoke, landmarks such as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Iran-Iraq War memorial, Baghdad International Airport, Baghdad Tower, the Al-Shaheed Monument, and especially the Swords of Qadisiyah or Hands of Victory.  You also see long shots of crowded streets full of markets and cars and donkeys and low socioeconomic housing.  You get the feeling it was be easy to get lost in this maze of streets and alleys.  Even worse if you were fighting for your life.

Speaking of combat, it is fantastic in this movie.  They really had some great advisors in this side of the film.  Matt Damon is constantly directing his team, at times not more than a fireteam in strength (4 men) and at others it looks like it could be 1 or 2 sections (9-20 guys).  He is quick and decisive in his tactics and commands and exudes the confidence and gusto someone of his rank should do.  He arranges stacking for entry, interception, flanking, fire and movement, suppressive fire, covering fire and recon by fire all on screen and in dialogue.  Superb stuff.  It's great to see a film that actually gives and insight into the squad based tactics being utilised in the story.

And if you Matt comes off super confident and afficient at his job, then you will be adequately impressive by the SF guys.  Then rock on in, achieve their objective with that extra level of confidence and imtimidation that you would expect and then exfil out.  And with the amount of firepower they utilise, I was left with the impression they were SEALs.

The story gives you a good understanding of the problems associated with having so many differing parties and agencies all working on the same projects but with differing strengths and weaknesses that they all protect as well as completely and often competing goals.  No wonder the US intelligence community is fragmented ineffectient.  (Now, I mean this in that they do let things slip from time to time while overall doing a great job in protecting America.  But with all the research I have done I can't help but wonder how much duplication and self protection could be avoided with a little more intergration or even merging.)

What did I not like?
I did not like the ending.  Having read Magelan's book (on Curveball), I knew he himself had made the whole thing up but the movie made out one of the head washington officials made it up and that Magelan had told him the opposite.  If you are going to teach people about a period of time in history, then do it right.

I also did not like the current through the movie that WMDs was the main reason for the invasion in the 1st place.  While that is one of the reasons that the media was sold and took ahold of, my research shows me that it was one of only a number of reasons, some of which don't sit well with public opinion.  Seeing as the media plays such a large part in the movie, I guess that can be overlooked.

Should you see it?
Definitely.  I intend to purchase this when it is released in DVD.


ScannableGoose said...

Fantastic Dave.
Great to get some advice on this one. I'll be putting it on the watch list.

Darryl said...

Just saw this Sunday. Good movie, but I wondered about those others in the audience who bought into "we lied about WMDs" theme.

David said...

Mosy would Darryl. Unfortunately most of the population get their take on things from the 6:30 news and Hollywood. Some of the 1st hand acocunts of the invasion I have read document instances such as with 3ID where a squad broke into an empty shed only have 8 of its members on the ground vomitting within 60 seconds of entering the building. The building was completely empty and 1 of the guys died. No WMDs is BS. I tend to think either they found none because they were all moved or destroyed or the US did not like what they found and decided not to release it at all. I tend to sway more toward the latter.