Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass returned to theaters in March with what should have been by most accounts another successful entry in their already exciting history together. After all how could the duo that popped out the action gems that were The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum put out a film that wasn’t every as bit engaging as they were? To most who saw the film, that was the case as Green Zone’s rapid-pace two hour run time left many underwhelmed and disinterested as it paired a rather run-of-the-mill grouping of characters into a story that, while entertaining in its own right, was quickly pegged as “anti-American” by film critics who took the films message and lead character going against the government as blasphemous.
Academy Award® nominees Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum) reteam in this action-packed thriller. Damon stars as Roy Miller, a rogue U.S. Army officer who must hunt through covert and faulty intelligence hidden on foreign soil before war escalates in an unstable region. Also starring Academy Award® nominees Greg Kinnear and Amy Ryan, Green Zone is “one hell of a thriller” (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times).
The reviews definitely hurt the film financially, as the films $100 million budget wasn’t even returned with worldwide receipts taken into account. Perhaps it was fatigue over Iraq war movies or maybe people were genuinely put off by the rebelling nature of Damon’s character as something injurious to the American ideal, but to that all I can say is: big deal. It’s a movie and with it being based off of true events (though oddly enough the film never really mentions that it was, although they could have embellished some things I suppose) it’s kind of hard to fight with the facts too much on this one. More importantly, for me at least, was that it was a genuinely entertaining film in that it never let up—it was relentless in its pacing and action and gave me hope for what the eventual 24 movie could be like especially since watching this film was like watching a condensed version of a 24 season.
Part of what drove that feeling home was not only Damon’s character rebelling against the government and superiors to do what is right but also the way it filmed with hand-held cameras and drove home a penchant for extremely gritty and grainy footage that caused an incredible amount of grain to jump across the screen at any given time. Honestly the look and feel of the film may turn off more than it would probably bring in, but after sitting with 24 for eight seasons it felt right at home for me. Combined with a solid cast and genuinely good performances by all involved, it was an easy film for me to get into.
That said it wasn’t perfect—I definitely see where some (of the non-politically charged) reviews took issue with the film. It was terribly generic in structure and the characters, however dutifully portrayed by their respective actors, were quite hollow and one dimensional. Damon’s character especially seemed pretty stagnant as he was only given the generic shell of a soldier who follows orders (and eventually bucks them somewhat, but still ends up following someone’s orders in the end) and Amy Ryan seemed to be quite superfluous in the end given her talent, though the same could be said for Kinnear’s character as well. I suppose in the end the film was more focused on the story it was trying to tell, which too was formulaic but it was presented in such a breathless fashion that it still managed to engage the viewer for that reason alone.
I truly don’t think I’ve seen such a relentless action film in quite some time. Not only was there a lot of the usual war-time violence but also just the pacing of the film. Again, I’m drawn back to 24 as that series has proven time and time again how easily good writing and pacing can make for an edge-of-your-seat outing. Green Zone’s quieter scenes, especially the ones around the pool (that whole scene was fantastic just for the reaction from the soldiers faces) and the ones with Ryan’s character, were often a time to re-collect yourself and settle down from the unrepentant action that occurred on screen. It was definitely an exciting film and for that reason alone it will have a place in my collection for some time to come.
The big dividing factor in this film and how you’ll feel about it will likely come down to your feelings on the Iraq War itself. The film does kind of skirt around the political edges a bit, focusing very little on President Bush (though some clips of him are thrown in, including the infamous “Mission Accomplished” speech), and more just on Kinnear’s character. While it’s not kept quiet what the intentions of the American government were it also doesn’t hit you over the head with them either. It kind of assumes you are informed about the whole mess and doesn’t try to preach to you either way. I’m sure it’s got some kind of political angle in there, but in the end to me it doesn’t matter. It’s definitely a polarizing movie simply because of the subject matter, but it’s still a brilliant war time effort from Damon and Greengrass.
Overall a Recommended film, especially for the 24 junkies who need a hit now that the show is off the air.
Universal brings the film home in a standard two-disc Elite Blu-ray case (the second disc being a digital copy, of course). Included is a matte foil reflective cover and the usual collection of inserts. Universal retains their blade-like menu system also keeps it interesting with downloadable movie trailers, which, I assume, would update over time so when you put this movie in two years from now it would (theoretically) show fresh previews if your player was connected to the internet. I assume that’s how it’s going to work and I’ve no idea how often they use this or if it’s an entirely new feature (it’s been awhile since I’ve reviewed a Universal title).
Not surprisingly the quality of Universal’s Blu-ray releases haven’t changed a bit, as the AVC encoded 1080p transfer here is absolutely impeccable. Sure, the grain is a hideous sight to see at times and the low-lit sequences especially look a bit monstrous on a big screen, but, again, the 24 addict in me loved every minute of this films visual style. The washed-out coloring scheme and the shaky-cam definitely made for some exciting sequences and there wasn’t a moment of the film that wasn’t better served by being seen in 1080p. I can’t imagine this film looking that great on DVD simply due to the amount of grain presented…but then again, 24 had the same visual style and that looked okay on the format for the most part. Basically what I’m getting at though is this film looks damn fine in HD and should be seen that way if at all possible.
The audio is another story. I would implore you to watch this film in DTS-HD MA 5.1 if at all possible because it is probably one of the noisiest and most highly enjoyable films I’ve ever seen on Blu-ray. I’ve seen my fair share of action-centric films and nothing has come this close to perfection. The amount of surround elements utilized in this film was nothing short of jaw-dropping, as everything from gun shots to bombs to overhead helicopters are presented with extreme precision. Panning effects are rampant and subwoofer usage is evident from the start of the film that it isn’t something that is to be reckoned with. I have a small wire rack of DVDs that sits on top of my subwoofer when it’s not in use and I had forgotten to remove it before starting the film. Within seconds I was rushing over to the subwoofer to move the rack as it was vibrating around on top of it.
The extras are:
Deleted Scenes (12:27, 1080p, with optional Video Commentary by Director Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon
Matt Damon: Ready for Action (9:47, 1080i)
Inside the Green Zone (8:53, 1080i)
Video Commentary by Director Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon
The video commentary was a nice touch (as was the picture-in-picture additives as well that are an optional playback feature), but sadly there isn’t much more past that to check out. It’s comforting to have the two main proponents of this film front and center, however, so for that reason alone I’m going to award the commentary huge points as they cover pretty much every aspect of the film. The featurettes are pretty brief but worth checking out as well—even the deleted scenes are pretty solid.
Overall a Highly Recommended film simply for the A/V presentation. With the proper set up it will undoubtedly blow you away in such a way you will be itching to show your buddies how much the film floods your eyes and ears with beautiful, crystal clear images and sonic booms.
Green Zone arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on June 22nd.