Based—loosely, very loosely—on Washington Post editor's Rajiv Chandrasekaran's nonfiction account of life inside the headquarters of the American occupation in Baghdad, "Green Zone," directed by Greengrass and written by Brian Helgeland, tells the fictional story of Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Matt Damon), a can-do soldier we meet between "shock and awe" and "mission accomplished." Miller leads a team of soldiers in search of those ever-elusive weapons of mass destruction and finds himself fuming after every supposed weapons site he raids turns up empty. When he stumbles across a clue that could lead him to the secret of where his bad intel came from, Miller attracts the attention of a CIA operative (Brendan Gleeson) who wants to aid him, a Defense Department official (Greg Kinnear) who wants to shut him down, and a Wall Street Journal reporter (Amy Ryan) who wants a story.
What Miller discovers answers the questions that so many Americans had about why the United States went to war in Iraq. The problem is that Miller's Iraq isn't real. In order to make a more perfect thriller, Greengrass and Helgeland create a more convenient war. They place decisions, made in reality by cabinet secretaries and generals, in the hands of midlevel bureaucrats and grunts. They replace Curveball, the former engineering student who misled U.S. intelligence agencies, with Magellan, a misinformant of a different breed. They replace Judith Miller and Ahmed Chalabi with reasonable facsimiles unfettered by historical fact.
Greengrass is a solid action director, but his mishandling of the political story keeps "Green Zone" from living up to the standard he set in "The Bourne Supremacy" and "The Bourne Ultimatum." Every time the action gets rolling, some groan-inducing chunk of plot lands in its path and brings it to a halt. And Greengrass' cast seems uncomfortably aware of how off-putting it is to watch them operate in his mirror-universe Iraq. Damon at least is able to pretend he's in a Jason Bourne movie long enough to get the job done. Gleeson and Ryan, both so superb so often, fare less well. Only Kinnear, playing the villainous desk jockey, appears to have wrapped his arms around his character. But that is not nearly enough to save "Green Zone" from the Iraq War movie graveyard.
Written by Brian Helgeland.
Directed by: Paul Greengrass.
Starring: Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Amy Ryan, Brendan Gleeson.