Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Wait - the CIA are the good guys?

For unexplained contractual reasons, or possibly just a falling out with the studio, the 2010, Iraq-set film Green Zone isn't available from our DVD rental service, LoveFilm. And given the film's blink-and-you'll-miss-it scheduling at our local cinema, we, well, we missed it. Fortunately, however, it was brought back for a single screening this evening as part of a series of films on Iraq for a Film Studies course taught at the UoS. So, being fans of Paul Greengrass' earlier films, and not averse to a bit of frenetic Matt Damon action, we dutifully attended.

The film arrives alongside almost companion pieces in the shape of the 2010 Oscar-winner, The Hurt Locker, and the 2008 TV series, Generation Kill. All three take a soldier's-eye view of "Gulf War II", the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and its aftermath, though each brings quite a different perspective to the conflict. I wasn't all that impressed by The Hurt Locker because of its pretty incoherent narrative and rather over-egged (and uninteresting) "message", but I thought Generation Kill was excellent, with a uniformly great cast, and a world-weary, warts-and-all narrative. It also had some of the most amusingly inventive swearing and taunting I've heard in a while.

Green Zone departs significantly from both films. On the one hand it's a very conventional action film aimed squarely at the multiplex crowd. And on the other, its fast-paced narrative is woven through with an upfront, and pretty angry, political message about the purported rationale for the war. But, for me at least, the mix worked really well. Since it's a sub-2 hour film with a lot to say, every second of screentime counts, so it does suffer somewhat from a sort-of bluntness in which every scene (and character) has a point to rather obviously get across. Meanwhile, the action set pieces do get impenetrably murky at times, but in part that comes with the territory in confused, urban warfare. Needless to say, the "message" of the film, that Gulf War II was instigated on spurious grounds and has left Iraq in a precarious state, was entirely up my street. I never bought the bogus WMD fictions when they were originally rustled up, and as time has passed it's just become eye-rollingly amazing to me that anyone ever did. Anyway, while this does add a rather unusual didactic layer to an otherwise barn-storming action thriller, it made me seethe enjoyably at my political bugbears, and made the film pretty winning for me. Far from perfect, but a solid, and rare, piece of political entertainment.

Grade: A- (high +2 on the Leeper Scale)

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