Green Zone (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Paul Greengrass|
|Music by||John Powell|
|Edited by||Christopher Rouse|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures (US & UK)
|Running time||115 minutes|
Green Zone is a 2010 British-French-American war thriller film directed by Paul Greengrass. The storyline was conceived from a screenplay written by Brian Helgeland, based on a 2006 non-fiction book Imperial Life in the Emerald City by journalist Rajiv Chandrasekaran. The book documented life within the Green Zone in Baghdad during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
The key players in the film are General Mohammed Al-Rawi (Yigal Naor), who is hiding in Baghdad during the invasion of Iraq and U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Matt Damon), who is searching for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Miller finds that the majority of the intel given to him is inaccurate. Moreover, Miller's efforts to find the true story about the weapons are blocked by Pentagon official Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear). The cast also features Brendan Gleeson, Amy Ryan, Khalid Abdalla and Jason Isaacs.
The film was produced by Working Title Films, with financial backing from Universal Pictures, StudioCanal, Relativity Media, Antena 3 Films and Dentsu. Principal photography for the film project began during January 2008 in Spain, later moving to Morocco and the United Kingdom.
Green Zone premiered at the Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival in Japan on February 26, 2010, and was released in Australia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Malaysia and Singapore on March 11, 2010, followed by a further 10 countries the next day, among them the United States, United Kingdom and Canada. Although the film generally received positive critical reviews, it was a box office flop, as it cost $100 million to produce plus $40 million in marketing, while the global theatrical runs only gave $94,882,549 in gross revenue.
On March 19, 2003, while trying to determine the political future of his country, General Mohammed Al-Rawi (Yigal Naor) hides in Baghdad and meets with his aides discussing the invasion of Iraq. Al-Rawi suggests waiting for the Americans to arrive and have them perhaps make his army an offer to join their forces in forming a government coalition against foreign insurgents.
Four weeks later, U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Matt Damon) and his platoon investigate a warehouse, believed to be holding Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. To Miller's surprise, the warehouse is not secure, with looters making their way in and out as soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division sporadically fight the Iraqis. After a firefight, they find that the warehouse is empty, much to Miller's surprise. Checking over his report again, he exhaustedly states that this is the third consecutive false report he has been given. Later, at a debriefing, Miller brings up the point that the majority of the intel given to him is inaccurate and anonymous, stating that on his last three attempts to find WMDs, teams had taken casualties but come up with nothing. High-ranking officials quickly dismiss Miller's theory about the intelligence being false. After the debriefing, Miller is then stopped by Martin Brown (Brendan Gleeson), a CIA officer based in the Middle East, who tells Miller that the next place he is going to investigate for WMDs is also empty, as a UN team had already searched there two months ago.
Meanwhile, Pentagon official Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear) is welcoming an Iraqi politician named Ahmed Zubaidi (Raad Rawi) at the Baghdad International Airport, where he is questioned by a journalist named Lawrie Dayne (Amy Ryan). Because of global pressure about the WMD intel not materializing, she says she needs to speak directly to "Magellan," to which Poundstone brushes her off, claiming Magellan is "locked up tight" and that not even he could access him.
Meanwhile, while investigating another site, Miller is approached by an Iraqi who calls himself "Freddy" (Khalid Abdalla), who tells him that he saw some Ba'ath Party VIPs meeting in a nearby home. Miller and his men swiftly arrive and burst into the house. Al-Rawi narrowly escapes, but one of his henchmen is taken into custody. Before Miller can extract any more information, the man is grabbed by special operations personnel - however, Miller manages to maintain possession of the man's notebook. Dayne finds Poundstone again and complains, but he maintains his dismissive posture, justifying that the stakes are much larger than her role in selling newspapers.
Miller goes to Brown's hotel in the Green Zone where he tells him what happened and gives him the notebook. Brown arranges for Miller to visit the man removed from his custody by the special operations personnel. Before leaving, he is approached by Dayne, who questions him about the false reports of WMDs. Miller soon finds the Iraqi informant in prison. Near death after being tortured by the special forces personnel, the man informs Miller that they "did everything you asked us to in the meeting." When Miller asks for clarification about which meeting the captive is referring to, he responds with one word: "Jordan." Miller then goes to Dayne's hotel room to confront her about the bogus intel she published, but she refuses to disclose her source. He continues to press her about what she knows. After Miller connects the evidence and questions whether Magellan met with American officials in Jordan, Dayne reluctantly confirms his suspicions, disclosing that Al-Rawi met with Poundstone in February as Poundstone's informant.
Miller realizes that Poundstone's men are hunting Al-Rawi, and can think of only one reason they would do so: Al-Rawi never confirmed a WMD program in Iraq and is now a liability. Poundstone, realizing Miller is now looking for Al-Rawi as well, confiscates the notebook from Martin and discovers it contains the locations of Al-Rawi's known safehouses. Miller moves with his team to intercept Al-Rawi and capture him so he may testify, evading Poundstone's men in the process. During his search, he is taken prisoner by Al-Rawi's men following Poundstone's announcement of the decision to disband the entire Iraqi army - an announcement made to upset Al-Rawi's men and coax them into killing Miller. Al-Rawi tells a captive Miller that there had been no WMD program since the First Persian Gulf War and that he told Poundstone this at their initial meeting; Poundstone was being used as a tool by his superiors in Washington so that Iraq would be invaded, and reported that Al-Rawi had confirmed WMDs. After Miller's team calls in a report of his kidnapping, American forces commence an attack on Al-Rawi's positions and the general flees, ordering his men to kill Miller. Meanwhile, Miller kills his captor and races to capture Al-Rawi. When he finally manages to catch up with him, Freddy suddenly appears and kills Al-Rawi, stating that the fate of Iraq is "not his to decide." With his only witness against Poundstone's lies now dead, Miller reluctantly tells Freddy to escape before the area is secured by troops as many of the Iraqi insurgency desperately tries to hold off the American forces before being overwhelmed by their air support. Later, in his hotel suite, Miller writes a report of everything that happened.
Miller confronts Poundstone in a meeting and gives him the report. Poundstone tells Miller that WMDs do not matter, causing a physical confrontation where Miller states that "the reasons for war always matter." Poundstone then rejoins the Iraqi meeting, only to see the Iraqi factional leaders yelling at each other and leaving the meeting - a fate previously predicted by Martin Brown. Afterwards, Dayne receives an emailed copy of Miller's report. The recipient list includes reporters for over two-dozen news agencies around the world.
In the final scene, the camera pans out from Miller's convoy showing an oil facility to the right, suggesting the real reason of the war.
- Matt Damon portrays Roy Miller, a US Army Chief Warrant Officer on the hunt for WMDs in Iraq and the film's main protagonist. Roy Miller is based on real-life Army chief warrant officer Richard "Monty" Gonzales. Damon joined the film with the assurance that production would conclude by April 14, 2008 so he could start working on the Steven Soderbergh film The Informant! on April 15, amid scheduling difficulties caused by the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike.
- Amy Ryan portrays Lawrie Dayne, a foreign correspondent for The Wall Street Journal who investigates the Bush administration's claims of the existence of weapons of mass destruction. One reviewer noted that, "it's crystal-clear that...Dayne is former New York Times reporter Judith Miller."
- Brendan Gleeson portrays Martin Brown, the CIA Baghdad bureau chief, loosely based on Jay Garner.
- Greg Kinnear portrays Clark Poundstone, Pentagon Special Intelligence and the film's main antagonist. One reviewer saw Poundstone as Paul Bremer, the "...Coalition Provisional Authority head in 2003–04...
- Yigal Naor portrays General Mohammed Al Rawi, who is an informant called 'Magellan', loosely based on the real-life informant Rafid Ahmed Alwan aka "Curveball".
- Jerry Della Salla portrays platoon sergeant Wilkins.
- Nicoye Banks portrays Perry.
- Jason Isaacs portrays Maj. Briggs, a special operations commander on the hunt for High-value targets. Although his unit is named Task Force 221 in the film, the character is presumably based on Delta and DEVGRU operators such as those in Task Force 88, whose mission is the elimination of "deck of cards" high-value targets.
- Martin McDougall portrays Mr. Sheen, CIA Baghdad assistant bureau chief.
- Khalid Abdalla portrays Freddy. Freddy, an Iraqi Army veteran who lost his leg in 1987 during the Iran–Iraq War, becomes Miller's translator. Abdalla was cast in the role after impressing Greengrass with his performance in United 93. The actor, who is of Egyptian descent, prepared for his role by learning the Iraqi Arabic dialect and reading Iraqi blogs like Riverbend and Alive in Baghdad.
- Michael O'Neill portrays Colonel Bethel
- Antoni Corone portrays Colonel Lyons
- Tommy Campbell portrays the Chopper Comms Commander.
- Paul McIntosh portrays a CIA officer.
- Sean Huze portrays U.S. Army Sergeant Conway, a member of Roy Miller's MET team.
- Robert Harrison O'Neil portrays a TV Journalist.
- Said Faraj portrays Seyyed Hamza
- Abdul Henderson portrays Marshall, a member of Roy Miller's MET
In January 2007, after completing The Bourne Ultimatum, director Paul Greengrass announced his intent to adapt a film of the 2006 non-fiction book Imperial Life in the Emerald City by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, a journalist for The Washington Post. Greengrass wrote a script based on the book, working with researchers Kate Solomon and Michael Bronner, who helped the director research for the 2006 film United 93. The script was reported to be developed more in advance than the script for The Bourne Ultimatum, which had undergone changes during production. Screenwriter Tom Stoppard was originally requested to write the script for Greengrass, but because Stoppard was too busy, screenwriter Brian Helgeland instead collaborated with the director to shape the film's premise. Greengrass expressed interest in casting in the lead actor Matt Damon, with whom he had worked on The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum, and the actor joined the project in June 2007. Actors Amy Ryan, Greg Kinnear, and Antoni Corone were later cast in January 2008. Greengrass said of the project's contemporary relevance, "Film shouldn't be disenfranchised from the national conversation. It is never too soon for cinema to engage with events that shape our lives."
Themes and inspirations
Director Paul Greengrass has said that he first thought about making a movie about the subject of the war in Iraq rather than telling a particular story. Although he initially supported Tony Blair's justifications of the war, he became disillusioned over time. Greengrass carried out extensive research into the background to the conflict, reading journalists such as Bob Woodward, Seymour Hersh, James Risen, Thomas Ricks, and Ron Suskind, in addition to Rajiv Chandrasekaran, whose book he optioned. He has even compiled a document, How Did We Get It So Wrong?, detailing what he learned. Although Greengrass initially wanted to make a smaller film, he eventually decided a bigger budget production would expose more people to the ideas in the film.
Addressing some of the contentions in the film, Greengrass has said that the arguments about disbanding the Iraqi army portrayed in the film represent debates that actually took place by US policy makers. The issue of the culpability of the Fourth Estate, i.e. the mainstream (news) media, or MSM, in taking intelligence at face value, although embodied by a single character, represents a broad based failing in both the USA and UK, but for Greengrass the fault ultimately lay with those trying to manipulate them.
Greengrass has said that both the Bourne films and Green Zone reflect a widespread popular mistrust of authority that was engendered by governments that have deliberately lied and have let their citizens down over the Iraq war. The confusion surrounding the absence of WMD in Iraq also provided an ideal scenario for a thriller, in which the protagonist battles for the truth.
Production of Green Zone was originally slated to begin in late 2007. Instead, it began at the Los Alcázares Air Base in Spain on January 10, 2008, moved to Morocco, and finished filming in the UK in December 2008.
The original motion picture soundtrack was composed by musician John Powell. Jorge Adrados mixed the sound elements for the chorus, while Jon Olive edited the film's music. The soundtrack for the film was released on March 9, 2010, by the Varèse Sarabande music label.
|Green Zone: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack|
|Film score by John Powell|
|Released||March 9, 2010|
|John Powell chronology|
|Green Zone: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack|
|2.||"1st WMD Raid"||2:39|
|9.||"Mobilize / Find Al Rawi"||5:17|
|10.||"Evac Preps Part 1"||8:36|
|11.||"Evac Preps Part 2"||3:24|
|12.||"Attack and Chase"||5:26|
Green Zone opened in Australia and Russia on March 11, 2010. It was released in the United States and some other countries on March 12, 2010.
The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray in United States on June 22, 2010.
|"The action in "Green Zone" is followed by Greengrass in the QueasyCam style I've found distracting in the past: lots of quick cuts between hand-held shots. It didn't bother me here. That may be because I became so involved in the story. Perhaps also because unlike the "Bourne" films, this one contains no action sequences that are logically impossible."|
|—Roger Ebert, writing for the Chicago Sun-Times|
Roger Ebert of Chicago Sun-Times awarded the film 4 stars and wrote that Green Zone is "one hell of a thriller." James Berardinelli of ReelView gave the film 3.5 stars, stating that the "most rewarding aspect of Green Zone is the manner in which it interweaves fact and fiction into an engaging whole." A.O. Scott, writing for The New York Times, praised Greengrass' direction, writing in his review that "There is plenty of fighting in Green Zone, most of it executed with the hurtling hand-held camerawork and staccato editing that are hallmarks of Mr. Greengrass's style. From Bloody Sunday through the second and third Bourne movies (which turned Mr. Damon into a minimalist movie star), this director has honed his skill at balancing chaos with clarity." Empire Magazine's Mark Dinning was nearly as enthusiastic by awarding the film 4/5 stars and concluding that "There is a murky morality in the whole sorry saga of Iraq. Some of the motivation is money, some of it is a genuine — if confused — desire for good. Reel can’t quite match real in portraying this aspect, but Green Zone will nevertheless provoke thoughts as well as thrills — it’s an honest, compelling, smart blockbuster that dares to deliver on several levels. And in that, at the very least, star and director are bang on target." 
The film has received moderately positive response from critics. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 53% based on reviews from 179 critics, with an average score of 6/10. The sites consensus is "Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass return to the propulsive action and visceral editing of the Bourne films – but a cliched script and stock characters keep those methods from being as effective this time around." At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating of 0–100 on top reviews from mainstream critics, gave the film a "generally favorable" score of 61% based on 35 reviews.
In the UK, The Daily Mail called the film "a preachy political thriller disguised as an action flick". The paper acknowledged that, while important political truths do emerge over the course of the film, the film overreaches itself as these points have "the air of being aimed at ignorant American teenagers." Tim Robey in The Daily Telegraph conceded that "with all we retrospectively know about the wool-pulling to make the case for war, it's a kick to follow a main character on the ground who smells a rat"; he nevertheless criticized the film for lacking credibility in its portrayal of a rogue hero who never faces a reprimand and never suffers paranoia.
More enthusiastically, Andrew O'Hagan in The Evening Standard called Green Zone "one of the best war films ever made" because "it does what countless newspaper articles, memoirs, government statements and public inquiries have failed to do when it comes to the war in Iraq: expose the terrible lies that stood behind the decision of the US and Britain to prosecute the war, and it does so in a way that is dramatically brilliant, morally complex and relentlessly thrilling."
The New York Times designated the film a Critic's Pick and said that the movie, while addressing timely concerns, "seems to epitomize the ability of mainstream commercial cinema to streamline the complexities of the real world without becoming overly simplistic, to fictionalize without falsifying."
Green Zone is seen as a political film. Film critic and US military veteran Kyle Smith labeled the film "slander" and "appallingly anti-American." An article on Fox News.com states, "Given this set-up, audiences are encouraged to root for Miller's rogue activities and against the government, represented in the film by a corrupt Pentagon chief played by Greg Kinnear."
Richard "Monty" Gonzales, the person on whom the character of Roy Miller was loosely based, commented that both sides of the political spectrum have reacted disproportionately and any political controversy is unwarranted. Gonzales worked as one of the film's military advisors over two years on the condition that the film would be faithful to the experience of American soldiers in Iraq. Gonzales wrote that, on the one hand, the film captures the critical intelligence blunders prior to the war and de-Baathification program that ensured that the conflict was costly and complicated. He nevertheless maintains that a reading of the film that reflects a genuine conspiracy by sections of the American government is incorrect. He sees the film as an exciting "Bourne-in-Baghdad thriller". Matt Damon cites Gonzales' motives for working on the film as being "because we need to regain our moral authority."
James Denselow, writing for The Guardian, praises the film's portrayal of the conflict, saying "ultimately what gives the film its credibility is that it avoids any simplistic idea that Iraq could have simply been 'got right'. Indeed Miller's vision of exposing the WMD conspiracy and the CIA's plan to keep the Iraqi army is undermined by the film's wildcard – a nationalist Shia war veteran who turns the plot on its head before delivering the killer line to the Americans when he tells them: 'It is not for you to decide what happens here [in this country].'"
Greengrass defended his film in an interview with Charlie Rose, saying, "The problem, I think, for me is that something about that event strained all the bonds and sinews that connect us all together. For me it's to do with the fact that they said they had the intelligence, and then it emerged later that they did not." Matt Damon also defended the film, telling MTV News, "I don't think that's a particularly incendiary thing to say. I think that's a journey that we all went on and a fundamental question we all asked and it's not partisan." On March 13, Michael Moore commented: "I can't believe this film got made. It's been stupidly marketed as an action film. It is the most HONEST film about the Iraq War made by Hollywood."
The film opened at No. 2 in the United States with $14,309,295 in 3,003 theaters, averaging $4,765 per theater. In the UK the film was the third most popular film of its opening weekend, selling £1.55 million worth of tickets (or £2.07 million including previews). Comparing the relative opening weekend results of Green Zone and Shutter Island between the USA and UK, Green Zone did twice as well in the UK as on the other side of the Atlantic.
Given its budget of roughly $100 million, in addition to its $40 million in marketing, Green Zone has been referred to as a flop for its production company Universal Studios. The Guardian stated that the film would be unlikely to recoup its production costs through box-office receipts alone. Green Zone has grossed $94,882,549 in total worldwide ($35,053,660 in the United States and Canada plus $59,828,889 elsewhere).
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- Smith, Kyle (March 12, 2010). "New Matt Damon movie slanders America". New York Post. Retrieved March 12, 2010. "Green Zone" isn't cinema. It's slander. It will go down in history as one of the most egregiously anti-American movies ever released by a major studio."
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