Green Zone: ** 3/4 (out of 4)

Green Zone is an adaptation of "Imperial Life in the Emerald City", with the "minor" change being that this time the story is fictional. Before the movie came out, I heard more hype surrounding the politics of Green Zone than I did about the movie itself. This is a bit surprising; after all, the trailers made it out to be Bourne IV: The Iraqening, and the media usually eats that kind of thing up. Certainly, the movie has a point of view, and displays it every chance it can. That view: that the United States government's rationale for and actions regarding the Iraq War were fundamentally flawed. In certain circles, this argument is not just uncontroversial, but hardly worth discussing; in others, it is near treasonous. In this case, a shrill cry of "ANTI-AMERICA!" drowned out all else, and the meta-narrative quickly became more important than the movie itself.

This is a shame, because the movie actually did a fairly good job of balancing the politics and the thriller.

This worked in large part by intentionally echoing the Bourne movies (a series in which I liked the parts more than the whole). It wasn't just that the movie starred Matt Damon and had a lot of shaky-cam; there were also the connections to the intelligence world and the media, the questionable loyalties, the tenseness, the fast-paced plot. Most prominent, though, was the sense of place: at all times, the movie felt like it was taking place in a specific city, and usually specific districts within this city. Baghdad felt real; and if the movie truly had a strength, it was this.

Of course, this style of movie carries a lot of baggage with it as well. The shaky-cam was as egregious as ever, though I'm clearly getting used to it. The action pieces were a bit overly-long and dramatic, which didn't quite fit the feel that the story seemed to be going for. Some of the character stereotypes that are called for by this kind of story - the Lone American Hero, the Inside Man, the Relentless Hidden Villain, the Smarmy Henchman - don't fit quite so well this kind of story. And the wheels-within-wheels plot points don't go well with the theme of governmental incompetence.

My major gripe with the movie is that it over-played the conspiracy angle. We know that things didn't go particularly well in Iraq; was it really necessary to suggest that this was because of malice instead of simple incompetence? Yes, it was interesting to show the hunt for WMDs going badly, to see the questionable decisions regarding Iraq's future, to witness the excesses and the disconnect between the troops, contractors, commanders, and civilians; does it really matter much, in that context, whether the necessary information is being hidden rather than just being obscure? Did we really gain anything to assume malice rather than incompetence?

All of that said, did I like it? Well, mostly. I didn't come out feeling enlightened; I also didn't come out furious. I suppose that, given the subject matter, that's an impressive feat on its own.

** 3/4