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John Drew

Green Zone - Damon and Greengrass

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rjkolb wrote:

: Basically, Greenzone is the film version of the bumper sticker "Bush lied people died."

Except it isn't, not really. It's "Greg Kinnear lied people died."

Yes, I know it really is not a direct attack on Bush. I just meant it had all the complexity of that bumper sticker.


If there were no God, there would be no Atheists.

G. K. Chesterton (1874 - 1936)

I'm still an atheist, thank God.

Luis Bunuel (1900 - 1983)

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Agreed re: the lack of complexity.

I mention the "Greg Kinnear lied people died" thing because it seems to me that this movie lets a LOT of people off the hook.

The Iraqis who posed and postured as though they had WMD? The movie's one fictitous Iraqi general says he told the Americans flat-out that they didn't have any WMD.

The Bush administration which made the possibility of WMD such a key part (but not the ONLY part) of their casus belli for invading Iraq? Well, it turns out Greg Kinnear lied to them.

The CIA which, along with intelligence agencies from all over the world, believed that Iraq had WMD or at least WMD programs? Hey, whaddayaknow, the movie's one major CIA character (Brendan Gleeson) is one of the skeptical good guys! (And despite a single passing reference to the UN early on, the film ignores the existence of all those other intelligence agencies -- which begs the question: Was Greg Kinnear lying to them, too? Or do they simply not exist?)

Even the journalist who disseminated Greg Kinnear's lies in the first place gets a redemption of sorts in the end. Having made the case for war, she now gets to make the case AGAINST the case. She still gets a good story, as it were. (And, as noted in one of the earlier posts, despite the fact that this fictitious character is clearly based on a real-life New York Times reporter, the fictitious character has been assigned to a different paper -- so the New York Times is let off the hook completely, too.)

So you have a film which will piss off the pro-war types because, well, it's anti-war, if nothing else; and you have a film which will piss off many (though of course not all) anti-war types because it lets nearly every culprit off the hook while pinning all the blame on a single fictitious character.

Obviously, SOME anti-war types -- like the aforequoted Roger Ebert -- will like the film anyway, because they will see it as an "accessible" vehicle for disseminating their anti-war views to the popcorn-munching multiplex crowd (i.e. to the people who wouldn't know No End in Sight from a hole in the ground). But, as the critic in the Globe and Mail put it, it simply won't do to have a hero who runs around yelling about "the truth!" when the movie itself is constantly tugging away from it.

Oh, and you know who ISN'T let off the hook? Those darned Iraqis and their preference for chaos and vengeance over peace and order. Yes, this is a film in which the native Iraqis (i.e. the ones who aren't in power) are just as bad as the neocons for putting their own patriotism and idealism ahead of practical concerns. It kind of brought to mind the charges of anti-Arab racism that have been levelled at Lawrence of Arabia from time to time, although in THAT film's case, both the Arabs and the Europeans have significant debates among themselves over how best to deal with each other both within their groups and between their groups.

So where does this leave white liberal Americans like Matt Damon and the movie's target audience? Off the hook too, I guess, since the Iraqis don't want their help either. But if the white liberal Americans want to feel guilty about wanting to make the best of a bad situation, well, the movie lets them do that, too.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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John Nolte's spoilerific review is what it is, but he does note a major plot hole that hadn't occurred to me -- a plot hole that should be fairly incontrovertible no matter what your politics are:

Greengrass’s absurd, twisted little fantasy is that this lie caused the insurgency that would eventually result in the deaths of thousands of Americans soldiers. It works something like this (I think). In Jordan, before the war, one of Saddam’s generals held a secret meeting with Poundstone and told him there were no WMD. So desperate was the Bush administration to go to war, they ignored this and went ahead with the invasion anyway. The problem is that the only man who can stop the insurgency is also this same general, who must now be killed in order to cover up that the administration knew there were no WMD. . . .

Even removing the context of history and truth, the premise is still a completely illogical storytelling device that asks us to buy into the idea that a general from the enemy’s army convinced a Pentagon official Saddam wasn’t in possession of WMD. Why would Poundstone believe him? What did this General show him that was so convincing and incontrovertible? Poundstone, however, is so terrified of this information getting out that he orders up a big conspiracy to have the General and Miller killed — instead of, you know, telling the press, “The General did tell me there were WMD and now he’s lying.”


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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From Premiere.com 's 3 star review. This made me laugh...

Misfires: Imagine an ultra-realistic World War II movie about America’s Supreme Commander in the Pacific, only his name is Shmouglas ShmacArthur and he turns out to be Japanese. Now you know how confusing the blurred lines separating fact from fantasy in this film can be.

Formerly Baal_T'shuvah

"Everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You just can't let the world judge you too much." - Maude 
Harold and Maude
 

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Movies about the Iraq War and/or the "war on terror" haven't done particularly well, as a rule. With the exception of Michael Moore's election-year documentary and Oliver Stone's 9/11 survival story (which didn't involve the subsequent military operations in any significant way), none of the films I can think of have made more than $50 million or so domestic, regardless of genre (though a few of them have done a fair bit better overseas).

And now the numbers are in, and Green Zone opened to ... $14.5 million! Which is better than all the other films I listed above, except for Dear John ($30.5 million), Fahrenheit 9/11 ($23.9 million), World Trade Center ($18.7 million) and The Kingdom ($17.1 million).

It's also one of the best opening weekends for any film that has rested almost entirely on Matt Damon's shoulders, outside of the Bourne trilogy. Here is where it sits among Damon's top 15 opening weekends:

  • 2007 - The Bourne Ultimatum - $69.3 million
  • 2004 - The Bourne Supremacy - $52.5 million
  • 2004 - Ocean's Twelve - $39.2 million
  • 2001 - Ocean's Eleven - $38.1 million
  • 2007 - Ocean's Thirteen - $36.1 million
  • 1998 - Saving Private Ryan - $30.6 million
  • 2002 - The Bourne Identity - $27.1 million
  • 2006 - The Departed - $26.9 million
  • 2002 - Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron - $17.8 million
  • 2005 - The Brothers Grimm - $15.1 million
  • 2010 - Green Zone - $14.5 million
  • 1999 - The Talented Mr. Ripley - $12.7 million
  • 1996 - Courage Under Fire - $12.5 million
  • 2005 - Syriana - $11.7 million (wide opening)
  • 2000 - The Legend of Bagger Vance - $11.5 million

As you can see, apart from the Bourne trilogy, most of the films that have had better openings on Damon's resume have been star-studded "ensemble" films like the Ocean's trilogy, Saving Private Ryan and The Departed.

That being said, it IS kind of embarrasing that an expensive action flick like Green Zone opened behind The Brothers Grimm and one of the least-remembered DreamWorks cartoons ever.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Interesting numbers. I'm a bit surprised that an actor with as much talent and charisma as Matt Damon isn't a bigger draw than he is.

From Premiere.com 's 3 star review. This made me laugh...

Misfires: Imagine an ultra-realistic World War II movie about America’s Supreme Commander in the Pacific, only his name is Shmouglas ShmacArthur and he turns out to be Japanese. Now you know how confusing the blurred lines separating fact from fantasy in this film can be.

I would go see *that* movie.

Scott -- 2nd Story -- Twitter

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Adam Daifallah @ National Post:

Unfortunately, many people who see Green Zone will assume it is close to reality because it is just loosely enough based on the real story to rub people the wrong way. The film’s characters are composites of real-life personalities, and anyone familiar with the Iraq war saga will recognize them. As a young, Washington-based reporter for the (now defunct) New York Sun, I spent a lot of time covering this story, which involved interaction with multiple personalities both inside and outside the U.S. government — officials at the Pentagon, the State Department, vice-president Dick Cheney’s office and scholars at various conservative think-tanks, particularly the American Enterprise Institute. . . .

Green Zone recounts that tale. The focus is on a unit of American soldiers tasked with tracking down Saddam’s WMDs. This unit really existed: I saw it myself. I reported from Iraq in May 2003 as what was known as a “unilateral” — a journalist not embedded with a military unit. The reporter who was embedded with this unit, MET Alpha, was Judith Miller. She had taken a break to go back to the United States. In her absence, I stepped in. David Kay, who went on to become chief U.S. weapons inspector but was then working as a consultant for NBC News, was also with us.

By the time I arrived in early May, all leads on WMDs from pre-invasion information or credible sources on the ground had been exhausted. MET Alpha was resorting to leads obtained from regular Iraqis. One episode I recall led us to a barnyard on the outskirts of Baghdad after a taxi driver told one of the soldiers that weapons might be stockpiled there. All we found was an abandoned chicken coop and some empty mortar shells in adjoining farm fields.

One thing that the film has right is its portrayal of the soldiers of MET Alpha. They were nothing less than paragons of professionalism. They worked hard hunting for weapons and did so to the best of their ability. They may not have found stockpiles but they did recover artifacts stolen by Saddam’s vicious intelligence service and other important documents. Chief Warrant Officer Richard “Monty” Gonzales, the soldier on whom the Damon character is based, remains a friend to this day, and worked as a key consultant on the movie.

Any director venturing to make a war movie is wading into dangerous waters. The gamble paid off for Kathryn Bigelow, whose film The Hurt Locker earned her an Oscar for best director and best picture. Green Zone has been criticized harshly, particularly by conservatives, for being anti-American — an allegation that Gonzales told me is “flat-out unbelievable,” particularly given that more than 200 Iraq veterans took part in making the film, including him. . . .


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Adam Daifallah @ National Post: Unfortunately, many people who see Green Zone will assume it is close to reality because it is just loosely enough based on the real story to rub people the wrong way. The film’s characters are composites of real-life personalities, and anyone familiar with the Iraq war saga will recognize them.

That was exactly my experience. Walking out of the screening, I actually thought that Roy Miller really existed and that the the film was a Hollywood semi-fictionalization of his actual experiences. The bits with "Lawrie Dayne" and "Clark Poundstond" were close enough to whatever I dimly remembered of their real-world analogues to sound plausible to me. Of course a lot of the movie was obviously Hollywood fiction, but I initially assumed it was much more based on actual facts than it turned out to be. 24 hours later, more or less, I knew better. But lots of people walking out of theaters won't be doing fact-checking afterwards.


“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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'Green Zone': One informed soldier's perspective

When it comes to watching Universal's "Green Zone," Brian Siefkes is not a disinterested observer.

Siefkes served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and was a member of the Army's Mobile Exploitation Team Bravo, which carried out the hunt in Iraq for the highly touted (but ultimately nonexistent) weapons of mass destruction -- the heart of the "Green Zone" plot.

What's more, Siefkes appears as an actor in "Green Zone," playing Keating, the right-hand adviser to Matt Damon's U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller.

In the film's press kit, Siefkes is quoted praising the film's accuracy. "What you see us doing in this film is an accurate representation of what we did over there," he said in the film's publicity materials. "It's what we experienced."

Now, having seen the finished movie, Siefkes has a more complicated appraisal of how his part in the movie came together, some of the disputes surrounding its production, and how much creative license director Paul Greengrass and screenwriter Brian Helgeland took in bringing the story to the screen. . . .

Los Angeles Times, March 30


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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FWIW, I saw a movie, um, recently that reminded me of Green Zone ... if it were crossed with another movie, like, say, The Mummy ... and it reminded me that I hadn't checked in on Green Zone lately to see how it ultimately fared at the box office, compared to other post-9/11 movies (for lack of a better catch-all phrase). I am thus updating my earlier post on this subject:

  • Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004) -- opening $23.9 mil, total $119.2 + 103.3 = 222.4 mil
  • Dear John (2010) -- opening $30.5 mil, total $80.0 + 27.3 = 107.3 mil
  • World Trade Center (2006) -- opening $18.7 mil, total $70.3 + 92.7 = 162.9 mil
  • Syriana (2005) -- opening $11.7 mil, total $50.8 + 43.2 = 93.9 mil
  • The Kingdom (2007) -- opening $17.1 mil, total $47.5 + 39.1 = 86.7 mil
  • Munich (2005) -- opening $7.6 mil, total $47.4 + 82.9 = 130.4 mil
  • Green Zone (2010) -- opening $14.3 mil, total $35.1 + 51.4 = 86.5 mil
  • Team America: World Police (2004) -- opening $12.1 mil, total $32.8 + 18.1 = 50.9 mil
  • United 93 (2006) -- opening $11.5 mil, total $31.5 + 44.8 = 76.3 mil
  • Brothers (2009) -- opening $9.5 mil, total $28.5 + 8.2 = 36.8 mil
  • W. (2008) -- opening $10.5 mil, total $25.5 + 3.9 = 29.5 mil
  • Traitor (2008) -- opening $7.9 mil, total $23.5 + 4.1 = 27.7 mil
  • Reign Over Me (2007) -- opening $7.5 mil, total $19.7 + 2.6 = 22.2 mil
  • Remember Me (2010) -- opening $8.3 mil, total $19.1 + 34.8 = 53.9 mil
  • The Hurt Locker (2008) -- opening $0.1 mil, total $16.4 + 32.2 = 48.6 mil
  • The Ghost Writer (2010) -- opening $183,009, total $15.1 + 33.7 = 48.8 mil (so far)
  • Lions for Lambs (2007) -- opening $6.7 mil, total $15.0 + 48.2 = 63.2 mil
  • Stop-Loss (2008) -- opening $4.6 mil, total $10.9 + 0.3 = 11.2 mil
  • Rendition (2007) -- opening $4.1 mil, total $9.7 + 17.3 = 27.0 mil
  • A Mighty Heart (2007) -- opening $3.3 mil, total $9.2 + 9.8 = 18.9 mil
  • In the Valley of Elah (2007) -- opening $1.5 mil, total $6.8 + 22.7 = 29.5 mil
  • In the Loop (2009) -- opening $191,866, total $2.4 + 5.4 = 7.8 mil
  • The Messenger (2009) -- opening $44,523, total $1.1 + 0.2 = 1.3 mil
  • Redacted (2007) -- opening $65,388, total $0.1 + 0.7 = 0.8 mil
  • Grace Is Gone (2007) -- opening $13,880, total $0.1 + 0.9 = 1.0 mil
  • Nothing but the Truth (2008) -- no opening, total $0.0 + 0.1 = 0.1 mil

If the list is missing any titles, let me know. (And that includes titles that still haven't been released yet, a la Fair Game, which just premiered at Cannes.)


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Not the best thread for this, but I wanted to say that Matt Damon was pretty great on last night's 30 Rock. That is all.


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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I guess I am growing up, because I thought this was terrible compared to No End in Sight or Why We fight, The Road to Guantanamo, etc. Then again, I know plenty of grown-ups who prefer an action flick to a documentary, but Green Zone rings so utterly hollow, especially the final half-hour, which feels like Lethal Weapon 2 in Baghdad, or maybe that old video game DOOM in IRAQ.

Edited by Persona

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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