12 July 2010

GREEN ZONE (Dir. Paul Greengrass, 2010, US) - Does political scare you?

The latest by Paul Greengrass comes as a major disappointment. Green Zone was touted as a potentially interesting political thriller given the source material originated from Rajiv Chandrasekaran's celebrated book on the American occupation of Iraq. It's not surprising to see the book being credited merely as an inspiration and nothing more because the involvement of Hollywood scriptwriter Brian Helgeland turned what should have been a fascinating political thriller into just another lame chase movie with incoherent action sequences. It didn't help with the marketing emphasising ridiculous quotes such as 'Bourne goes epic' on the posters in a last ditch attempt to convince audiences that Damon was actually invoking the franchise with which he has become synonymous. Costing in excess of $100 million, the commercial failure of yet another Hollywood film about the war in Iraq has certainly called an end to this current crop of films. Personally, Green Zone has no real narrative to talk about in depth nor does it really offer anything new about the way Hollywood has decidedly represented the occupation of Iraq.

Reinforcing the dominant American point of view, most of the Hollywood films about Iraq have failed categorically to give a credible and notable voice to the people whom have been subjugated and are currently under occupation. In Green Zone, the Iraqi representative whom the American army name 'Freddy' is yet another underwritten Other. The politics of the film which focuses centrally on the hunt for WMD's seems not only a few years too late but is dealt with in a very naive and inept manner whereby the audience is spoken to as though they have no contextual understanding of why such an illegal war was waged by Bush, Blair and the hegemonic forces of corporate evil. By the end one feels Greengrass and Damon have deliberately steered clear off asking the really important political questions, settling on the comforts of heroic escapism which chimes badly with the sensibilities of so many who feel utterly pissed off at Hollywood's lack of sympathy with the destruction of Iraq and its people.

As for Greengrass, he has attracted a reputation as one of the best directors working in Hollywood today but the dubious and pretentious apolitical nature of his latest film seems to suggest his work has been triumphed for no particular reason other than an empty realist or cinema verite aesthetic which looks quite weary now. Mainstream film critics should give it a rest - Greengrass is a competent director at best, the rest is hype. As to the question, 'Does political scare you?', well, you know the answer to that one - 'Radical political scares me. Political political scares me.' (The Player, 1992)

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