March 12, 2010

Green Zone mini-review

By: Sonny Bunch

One wonders just how The Paul Greengrass Experience can be improved upon. For the last half-decade — from United 93 through The Bourne Ultimatum/Supremacy— Greengrass has developed a very specific aesthetic: super shaky cam, like Blair Witch on ‘roids. And, to his credit, it occasionally works. The opening sequence of Green Zone, for example, perfectly captures the insanity of shock and awe from the perspective of Iraqis dealing with American ordinance, one would assume: Head-snapping explosions; chaotic action from all corners; no real sense of continuity. Greengrass does a fine job of simulating chaos.

But why stop with rapidly twirling camera perspectives? Why not import The Paul Greengrass Experience 2.0 to theaters across the country? Instead of allowing the screen to simulate a flash-bang grenade, why not toss actual flash-bangs into packed houses? Instead of allowing the camera’s rapid movements to simulate the herky-jerky movements in the moment, why not have someone grab the audience’s heads and literally shake them silly? Motion sickness is all well and good: Why not instill some actual sickness? If Greengrass’s goal is to institute a sense of debilitating uncertainty in the audience why not go all the way with it?

Let’s not get hung up on questions of capability: If we can implement full, Avatar-style 3D, we can certainly implement The Paul Greengrass Experience in its entirety, or at least a close simulacrum of its entirety. Vomiting audience members notwithstanding, something would certainly be gained.

You’ll notice I’ve said nothing about the substance of Green Zone, having instead limited myself to discussing its absurd aesthetics. In part, it’s because the meat of the movie is even more absurd than its terrible aesthetic sense. This picture is, as Kyle Smith has said, little more than a slander upon the United States. Matt Damon plays a soldier who embrace his inner-Jason Bourne and goes rogue, attempting to expose the vicious lies of the Department of Defense and figure out just why he has been told to find nonexistent caches of WMD. The movie — during which my audience cheered an American being gunned down by a member of the Republican Guard and booed when a noble Republican Guard general was killed — is as pure an example of anti-American sentiment as you will find. I was actually a little bit surprised that an American studio paid for this film’s production as opposed to a Iranian one.

I do wonder what audiences will make of the picture when they have a chance to sit down and actually think about it. Will they buy into the absurd notion that American agents simply created WMD intelligence out of thin air — not that the WMD intel was wrong, mind you, but that it was simply fabricated to justify an unjust invasion? Will they sympathize with the Iraqi generals who spent most of their days brutalizing the Iraqi population? Will they be happy cheering for the death of American soldiers at the hand of the Republican Guard?

I’m honestly not sure. We shall see.