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'Green Zone' Reviews: Matt Damon Unusual War Movie

Paul Greengrass, Matt Damon Gree Zone
Green Zone: Amy Ryan, Matt Damon (top); director Paul Greengrass, Matt Damon on the Green Zone set

Paul Greengrass' Iraq War thriller Green Zone follows a US Army officer (Matt Damon) who discovers there's a government conspiracy at work to dupe Americans into believing Saddam Hussein's Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction.” As to be expected, right-wingers have called the movie “anti-American,” while US critics have given it mixed reviews.

An expensive production – $100 million, plus marketing and distribution costs – Green Zone took in only $14.5 million at the North American box office on its debut weekend, following a pattern of poor receipts for film productions set in Iraq. Unless Green Zone does exceedingly well on home video and pay per view, Universal and partner Relativity Films will in all likelihood lose a lot of money on this one. Not helping matters is the fact that the film's overseas box office hasn't been all that promising, with less than $10 million earned in several key territories.

Also in the Green Zone cast: Greg Kinnear, Brendan Gleeson, and Amy Ryan.

Consensus: Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass return to the propulsive action and visceral editing of the Bourne films – but a cliched script and stock characters keep those methods from being as effective this time around. Rotten Tomatoes.

Green Zone looks at an American war in a way almost no Hollywood movie ever has: We're not the heroes, but the dupes. Its message is that Iraq's fabled 'weapons of mass destruction' did not exist, and that neocons within the administration fabricated them, lied about them and were ready to kill to cover up their deception. … Green Zone, directed by Paul Greengrass, is a thriller that makes no claim to be based on fact, but provides characters and situations that have uncanny real-life parallels.” Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times.

“You have to hand it to Green Zone. Made with daring and passion, it attempts the impossible and comes remarkably close to pulling it off. So close, in fact, that the skill and audacity used, the shock and awe of this highly entertaining attempt, are more significant than the imperfect results.” Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times.

“In Green Zone, director Paul Greengrass brings the frenetic, run-and-gun style with which he utterly transformed the movie thriller in the Jason Bourne series to a different kind of thriller, one with a sharper political edge. For Green Zone explores the Bush administration's willingness to embrace palpable lies over murky truths in order to sell the Iraq War to the American public.” Kirk Honeycutt in The Hollywood Reporter.

Photos: Green Zone (Jasin Boland / Universal)

Matt Damon in Green Zone

“Similarly, Green Zone comes off as a picture made by a person with a brain as well as a conscience, though the movie's big flaw may be its unblinking insistence that we've been lied to – you don't have to read too much between the lines to see how adamant Greengrass is about that fact, though he isn't telling us anything particularly new. Stephanie Zacharek at Salon.com.

“Better late than never—a bang-bang pulse-pounder predicated on the Bush administration's deliberate fabrication of WMD in Iraq. Paul Greengrasss' expertly assembled Green Zone has evidently been parked for some time on Universal's shelf. Had the movie been released during the 2008 election season, it might have been something more than entertainment. Still, Green Zone, which could have more accurately been titled Told You So, Jerk-Off!, does gain some coincidental topicality for opening just days after the Iraqi elections and the release of Karl Rove's new book, Courage and Consequence, even if the zeitgeist has moved on, with the unwinnable war now in Afghanistan and the Bush disaster barely a memory.” J. Hoberman in The Village Voice.

“But like all of the best action filmmakers — including Kathryn Bigelow, justly rewarded at this week's Academy Awards for her stringent, soulful work on The Hurt Locker — Mr. Greengrass has never been interested in technique for its own sake. Action under pressure is, for him, a test and a revelation of character. The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum refined this axiom to its philosophical essence. Mr. Damon's character in those movies never knew who he was until he saw what he did.” A. O. Scott in the New York Times.

“Director Paul Greengrass is working his way through recent American history, but it's giving him a bad case of the shakes. His latest, “Green Zone,” which dramatizes how bureaucratic arrogance and stupidity ended up pouring gasoline on the Iraq insurgency, is watchable in spite of Greengrass as much as because of him. The story is good enough to make viewers want to ignore the photography.” Mick LaSalle in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Photo: Green Zone (Jasin Boland / Universal)

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