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03/12/2010

Damon, Greengrass 'Bourne' again?

Matt Damon isn't Bourne again in the jingoistic Iraqi war drama "Green Zone."

Instead, Damon channels the late John Wayne and World War II hero-turned-actor Audie Murphy to take the notion Army of One quite literally.

An action-loaded thriller with a pulse rate equal to Damon's "Bourne Identity" franchise, "Green Zone" is directed by Paul Greengrass, who called the shots on "The Bourne Ultimatum" and "The Bourne Supremacy."

Here we're dropped into a war-ravaged Baghdad just four weeks after "shock and awe" lit up Iraq in 2003.  Square-jawed U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Damon) leads a group of soldiers attempting to ferret out the much-talked-about weapons of mass destruction or WMDs.

Miller is no war zone newbie, and he's tiring quickly of arriving at targets supplied by "Intel" only to find empty sheds and other deserted spaces.

This movie had me at hello, as Renée Zellweger famously weeped to Tom Cruise in "Jerry Maguire."  In the early moments, at least, "Green Zone" made noise like it had something relevant to say about the ramifications of surging into war before all the facts are sorted out.

Might we have a second important film about our armed forces at grunt work; a "Hurt Empty Locker" or something?

The affection connection didn't last, unfortunately.  Disenchanted by the Army's lame excuse for lousy intel, intersecting spun agendas by government officials (Greg Kinnear), the CIA (Brendan Gleeson) and a Wall Street Journal reporter (Amy Ryan of "Gone Baby Gone"), Miller goes rogue.

Rogue, like a police detective stripped of his badge and his weapon who still insists on cornering the killer himself.

Frankly, I couldn't believe this was happening and it was too far-fetched for me to suspend my disbelief and dive in emotionally.

What goes on in this movie -- scripted by Brian Helgeland (a co-Oscar winner for "L.A. Confidential" in 1998) with a nod to Rajiv Chandrasekaran's book "Imperial Life in the Emerald City" -- is preposterous most of the time and downright laughable the rest.

The formula thriller of the outside guy looking in and still taking care of business is serviceable enough in the "Bourne" scenario.  As the targeted  CIA outsider, Bourne just had to elude a few assassins and harass CIA officials to keep it interesting.  Here Damon becomes a one-man Army.  (There were snickers, and I don't mean the candy bar.)

There are some things I like about "Green Zone," though.  Greengrass, shooting most exteriors in Morocco, does a terrific job of recreating the chaos of Baghdad shortly after the U.S.-led invasion.

The actors, including the very busy Oscar-nominated Damon ("Invictus," "The Informant!"), generally give Greengrass their best, with the possible exception of Gleeson, who phones this performance in.

The most interesting character for me is Freddy (Khalid Abdalla of "The Kite Runner" and "United 93"), the Iraq civilian who becomes Miller's interpreter. 

There's plenty of rat-a-tat action, but this one's a little light in the authenticity department.

Shock and aw you've got to be kidding me is more like it.

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I think about that movie and I still get nauseous. Not because it was a bad movie, but those camera shots, oh my!
I agree that the most interesting character was Freddy. That fake leg won me over.

Feel free to read my not-so-good review... or not.
http://www.newsregisteronline.com/arts-entertainment/weapons-of-mass-tension-1.1266687

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