The film is inspired by Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s highly acclaimed non-fiction book Imperial Life in the Emerald City, a clear-eyed, darkly comic account of the breathtaking arrogance, ignorance and incompetence of US-led rule in occupied Iraq.
Though grounded in fact, Green Zone is, however, very much a made-up story: a “Bourne goes to Baghdad” adventure, as Damon’s doughty US army officer Roy Miller goes on the hunt for Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction in the immediate aftermath of the invasion.
He can’t understand why he and his team are coming up empty-handed at every supposed WMD site they visit, but as he digs deeper he discovers that the intel has been fabricated. Can he stay ahead of Greg Kinnear’s slippery Pentagon agent and Jason Isaacs’ Special Forces officer and expose the truth before Iraq falls into anarchy and civil war?
With Greengrass at the helm, deploying his trademark, Bourne-style shaky camerawork and rapid-fire cutting, Green Zone is as fast-paced as you’d expect, but the uneasy mix of fact and fiction ultimately works against the film.
The viewer does get to share the outrage of Damon’s character as he realises that the invasion rested on lies – as if we didn’t know already – but the attempt to shape the chaos of Iraq into a Bourne-shaped plot is eventually self-defeating.
The last word, though, belongs to the character of the Iraqi who is pressed into service as Miller’s interpreter. After all the machinations and mayhem, Khalid Abdalla’s Freddy, an Iraqi army veteran who lost a leg in the Iran-Iraq war, delivers a curt reprimand to the Americans’ meddling in his country, telling Miller: “It isn’t for you to decide what happens here.”
On general release from 12th March.