Ed reviews 'Green Zone' 

3 stars,(R)

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At first, Green Zone had me. The intensity and immediacy of director Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Ultimatum, United 93, The Bourne Supremacy) combined with the absolute focus of the soldier played by Matt Damon pulled me into the war action/thriller. The rest of the cast, which includes Greg Kinnear, Brendan Gleeson and Amy Ryan, are credible, but it's the force and clarity of Damon's Army Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller and the powerful work of Khalid Abdalla as an outraged local known to the soldiers as Freddy that make the movie crackle.

Damon and Abdalla are outstanding from beginning to end, but after a while Greengrass' in-your-face "you are there" filmmaking style became less compelling. The sameness of his approach and the difficulty in tracking the action due to the fast camera motions didn't become flat-out tiresome, but it swerved in that direction several times. And, as the conspiracy thriller aspect of the film became more dominant, the oversimplification of Brian Helgeland's screenplay began to annoy me. Towards the end, Green Zone felt less like a fearless docudrama and more like the last reel of the "government-faked space mission" thriller, Capricorn One.

The story is inspired by the celebrated non-fiction book Imperial Life in the Emerald City by Rajiv Chandrasekaran. Please note the phrase "inspired by" and remember the rules of this kind of movie. If a film says "The following is a true story," that means "we read the facts and only changed a few crucial parts." If a film says, "Based on a true story," that means "somewhere in all the fiction lies a few pieces of the real story." And when a film says, "Inspired by... " it means, "Truth?! You can't handle the truth!"

This film takes a piece of Chandrasekaran's book, changes some names, and puts the pedal to the metal, baby. Green Zone deals with the post "Shock and Awe" Bush administration-ordered search for WMDs - weapons of mass destruction - to justify America's invasion of Iraq. Most accounts of the actual events indicate that the wild goose chase was the result of a combination of misplaced trust, disorganization, bad listening and criminal behavior involving a whole bunch of folks. The movie makes it seem like this was a conspiracy of a relatively small number of people, a conspiracy that could be unraveled by the determination of a single soldier whose focus remained on his duty rather than politics.

Fine. Okay. It's just a movie, and I tried to stay in that frame of mind, but I was disturbed by seeing such a major part of recent history, much of it still unclear, being broken into bite-size pieces of movie candy. Too pat, too Capricorn One. Green Zone will likely play better to those too young to be familiar with the history or to those too otherwise-occupied to have paid attention. As a piece of entertainment, it works for a while before it gets too tidy. I enjoyed it three stars worth. Out of five.

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