Film Review: “Green Zone”

I recommend the film, “Green Zone.” It has flown under the radar for some reason, but Matt Damon does an excellent job, as does the rest of the cast. With the same pacing as the Bourne films (also directed by Paul Greengrass), Green Zone is sometimes hard to follow, but it is always exciting and interesting. It takes the point of view (probably now a consensus) that Iraq had ended the WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction program) in 1991 and that the US knew that, but went into Iraq for other reasons. The main character, Warrant Officer Roy Miller (US Special Forces), commands a squad given the task of locating the WMD’s, but he soon realizes that there are no WMD’s. Much of the plot centers on whether the US should incorporate the Baath (Sadaam Hussein’s party) political and military leaders into the governance of the country.

The film represents a number of different points of view. Baath Sunni General Al Rawi (Yigal Naor) seeks to make a deal with the US; Freddy (Khalid Abdallah), who knows the lay of the land and serves as Miller’s translator, is a Shia Iraq-Iran war veteran who lost a leg and who harbors deep anger toward the Baath leaders; Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear) is a state department official who wants to destroy the Baath and kill as many of them as possible in order to install those whom the US favors; Poundstone backs Shia Ahmed Zubadi (Raad Rawi, presumably an allusion to Ahmed Chalabi whom the US probably thought it could install as leader of Iraq), but Zubadi has little support among Iraqis; Martin Brown (Brendan Gleeson) is a CIA agent who apparently supported the Iraq war, knew that the US lied about WMD’s, and wants to make a deal with the Baath; and Lawrie Dane (Amy Ryan) is a Wall Street Journal reporter who wrote stories on the Iraqi WMD that lent support to the US invasion of Iraq.

For an action film, there is a lot of subtle commentary, with different points of view presented on whether the US should have allowed the Baath into the governance of the country. Most action films do not show the complexity of real-life contexts, but this does so with flair. General Al Rawi is an intimidating charismatic leader who wants to make a deal. His physical presence in the film oozes suppressed rage and violence that could explode under the right circumstances. Both Freddy and Martin Brown expose the naivete of Miller. Freddy’s wounds and suffering give him credibility and moral force, as encapsulated by his words to Miller: “it’s not for you to decide what happens in Iraq.” Brown was well aware of the US deceit and lies from the outset, but has a realistic understanding of what could work in Iraq. Poundstone is an oily power-grubbing political climber who has no clue about Iraq and only cares about his own advancement. Zubadi is a lackey. Lawrie Dane is a dupe. And Roy Miller is caught in a web which he only begins to understand at the end of the film.

Green Zone’s depiction of the chaos of Iraq and the hellish environment in which soldiers operate attempts to give viewers a picture of events from the point of view of soldiers and Iraqis. Green Zone clearly takes the position that were no WMD’s in Iraq and that the US knew that, but it also leaves open the question as to whether the US should have invaded Iraq and whether it should have incorporated the Baath leaders into the governing structure of the country. The film intimates that, if the US had incorporated the Baath into the new Iraqi political system, one of the goals of the invasion might have come to fruition more quickly: an inclusive, democratic Iraq that could serve as a political model for the Middle East. But obviously there were those with other ideas, including both Americans and Iraqis.

The film does not give easy answers, and that’s what makes it special.

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DR. LAURENCE H. KANT (LARRY KANT), MYSTIC SCHOLAR: Engaged Mysticism and Scholarship in the Pursuit of Wisdom; Discovering meaning in every issue and facet of life; Integrating scholarship, spirituality, mysticism, poetry, community, economics, and politics seamlessly. Historian of Religion: Ph.D., Yale University, 1993 (Department of Religious Studies); Exchange Scholar, Harvard University, Rabbinics, 1983-84; M.A., 1982, Yale, 1982 (Department of Religious Studies); M.T.S., Harvard Divinity School, 1981; B.A., Classics (Greek and Latin), Tufts University, 1978; Wayland High School (Wayland, MA), 1974. Served on the faculty of Cornell University (Ithaca, NY), York University (Toronto), and Lexington Theological Seminary (Lexington, KY). Works in many languages: Ancient Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, English, French, Italian, German, Modern Greek (some Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish). Holder of numerous honors and awards, including The Rome Prize in Classics (Prix de Rome) and Fellow of the American Academy of Rome.
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