MOVIE REVIEW: Iraq-tion: <i>Green Zone</i> finds no WMDs


With 24 having one of its worst seasons ever, we need a good political thriller. Green Zone is good enough. Think of it as The Hurt Locker with an agenda.

Set in March and April of 2003, Green Zone was "inspired by" a non-fiction book, Imperial Life in the Emerald City by Washington Post reporter Rajiv Chandrasekaran. Reportedly a darkly comic take on the early days of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the book has had the humor drained from it and replaced with action in Brian Helgeland's (L.A. Confidential, Mystic River) screenplay. It may be too soon for some people to laugh at Saddam's alleged "weapons of mass destruction," but it's far too late for anyone to take them seriously.

Fortunately, Paul Greengrass is arguably the best current director of action sequences, so the movie works. Barry Ackroyd's shaky-cam keeps you in the center of things, even when there's not much going on.

Matt Damon isn't Bourne again in Green Zone, but he might as well be. His Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller is initially as clueless as the amnesiac Jason was in The Bourne Identity (the only one of the trilogy Greengrass didn't direct), but he begins to ask questions when he and his men keep risking their lives in the search for WMDs, only to find they were following faulty intelligence.

The brass are under pressure, which they pass down the chain of command, to come up with evidence that will justify the invasion. Miller's boss, Col. Bethel (Michael O'Neill) tells him what Washington wants: "All they're interested in is something they can hold up on CNN."

Miller is stonewalled by Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear), "the (Bush) administration's go-to guy," but gets help from Martin Brown (Brendan Gleeson), a CIAgent who's not much of a "company" man. Wall Street Journal reporter Lawrie Dayne (Amy Ryan) prints what she's told, including rumors of a "high-ranking Iraqi official," code-named Magellan, who's supposedly the key intelligence source.

While Baghdad explodes, a number of key figures are relaxing in luxury at Saddam's old Republican Palace, safe within the combat-free Green Zone.

Becoming more Bourne-like by the moment as he goes "off the reservation" and pursues his own investigation, Miller is aided by a well-meaning Iraqi who calls himself Freddy (Khalid Abdalla), who sincerely seeks the best outcome for his country.

An overlong climax in which we're not sure what result to root for occurs on the night of Bush's "Mission Accomplished!" speech. It leads to a final message from Iraq to America: "It is not for you to decide what happens here."