Film review – Green Zone (2010)

10 March 2010

Roy Miller (Matt Damon)

After making the final two thirds of the outstanding international thriller/action Bourne franchise together, director Paul Greengrass and actor Matt Damon have teamed up again for Green Zone. Set in the early days of the 2003 Iraq War, Damon plays US Army Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller who is deployed in Baghdad to find the Weapons of Mass Destruction that the allies gave as their reason to invade Iraq. After repeatedly coming up empty-handed Miller starts to question the reliability of the military intelligence his team is being fed. What unfolds plays out like a conspiracy thriller where the audience already know what Miller does not – there are no WMDs in Iraq but there are many powerful interests invested in the belief that there are.

Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear) and Roy Miller (Matt Damon)

Of all the previous films made about the 2003 Iraq War, Green Zone has the most in common with Nick Broomfield’s Battle for Haditha (2007). Both films use handheld cameras to create a cinéma vérité style of cinematography that makes what is on-screen appear to be raw footage filmed by a cameraperson who was on the ground and amid the action. Both films are also critical of the American involvement in Iraq, however, Green Zone doesn’t demonise all the Americans and instead champions righteous characters such as Miller and CIA man Martin Brown (Brendan Glesson) who come up against self-serving characters such as Defence Intelligence agent Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear).

Likewise, the Iraqi characters are not just viewed as the enemy or as victims and the character of Freddy (Khalid Abdalla from The Kite Runner) is used very effectively to represent the everyday people of Baghdad who want an end to the violence and oppression in their country. None of the characters in Green Zone are particularly complex in their own right but together they represent a broad range of view-points that situates Green Zone neatly between Brian De Palma’s overly didactic Redacted (2007) and Kathryn Bigelow’s apolitical The Hurt Locker (2008).

However, the main appeal of Green Zone is Greengrass’s approach to filming action, which he developed covering global conflicts for television. Instead of blocking the action for the camera frame, Greengrass allows the action to unfold while the camera must simply keep up. The result is a camera that is constantly moving, which increases during the really adrenin-pumping scenes to reach an exhilarating crescendo in the film’s climatic gunfight/chase sequence. Unlike the rapid editing of composed shots in the films of directors such as Michael Bay, with Greengrass you never feel as if you are missing any of the important details about what is going on within all the chaos on screen.

Green Zone continues Greengrass and Damon’s collaboration on making action films for the ‘thinking person’. This time they are also using the action genre to set the record straight by reminding audiences that despite the rhetoric that has since come out, the rationale behind invading Iraq was based on highly dubious information that Iraq was stockpiling WMDs.

© Thomas Caldwell, 2010

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Film review – Ghost Town (2008)

13 February 2009
Bertram Pincus (Ricky Gervais) and Frank Herlihy (Greg Kinnear)

Bertram Pincus (Ricky Gervais) and Frank Herlihy (Greg Kinnear)

What do Haley Joel Osment, Whoopi Goldberg, Robert Downey Jr. and now Ricky Gervais all have in common? They have all played characters who can see dead people. As in The Sixth Sense, Ghost and Heart and Souls, Ghost Town is again using the idea that if you die without resolving certain issues then you hang around Earth as a ghost until you can find somebody who is able to see you and help you out. This time that someone is a New York dentist named Bertram Pincus (Gervais), who acquires the ability to see dead people after he himself dies for seven minutes during a routine colonoscopy. The problem is that Bertram doesn’t like the living so is less than happy about the multitude of dead people now bugging him for favours. Bertram reluctantly makes a deal with ghost Frank Herlihy (Greg Kinnear), agreeing to stop his widowed wife Gwen (Téa Leoni) from remarrying and in return Frank will keep the other ghosts away from him. When Bertram finds himself falling for Gwen Ghost Town very quickly establishes itself as a likable but conventional romantic comedy.

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Film review – Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

28 September 2006

At first glance the storyline of Little Miss Sunshine appears to be a completely clichéd American independent comedy/drama – a dysfunctional family is thrown together under strained circumstances to go on a road trip. All of the family members have their particular peculiarities, most of them don’t want to be doing the trip and all hell is threatening to brake loose at any moment. And to be honest, this pretty much sums Little Miss Sunshine up. What sets it apart from so many other ‘quirky’ independent films are its appealing characters and the skill in which their relationships with one another are developed.

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