A glimpse of the humanity of the Iraqi people
Green Zone is a great action/intrigue movie. It works on all the entertainment and artistic levels. Paul Greengrass applies the same laser-like attention to detail he did with The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum. It also addresses a lie told by our government that shouldn't be swept under the carpet. However, none of that is what I want to talk about.
What I found most refreshing about this film was the light in which it paints normal Iraqi people. With all that’s been said and written and argued about the Iraq War, all the footage that’s been shot, it is rare that you see ordinary citizens blocking the streets to tell the American troops they don’t have any water. We put the lights out on these people, literally, and yet the basic faces of that deprivation, I think, were barely seen.
There is a character in this movie named Freddy (played by Khalid Abdalla) who embodies the humanity of a good person whose country is under siege. Freddy makes an effort to help the American troops, allowing them to use his car, which gets smashed up in the process. Within the intense pressure of the situation, the U.S. troops rough him up and nearly run off with his keys. When Freddy rebukes the soldiers, saying that they have no idea what that car means to him, we see illuminated all those elemental qualities that an Iraqi shares with you, me, and everyone else who's trying to get by.
Even the Iraqi general who used to work under Saddam is presented realistically, with neither devil horns nor angel wings, an intelligent and flawed man trying to do what he thinks is right in a complicated situation. The movie made me think of footage I saw once of Iraqi children flying kites—so rare for an American’s eyes, yet so integrally part of this contentious and troubled hallowed ground.
Matt Damon is expectedly solid. With Damon I am reminded of something James Lipton said about Tom Hanks. He said you can’t fake intelligence on screen, meaning that Hanks’ characters come across as thoughtful, intelligent people because Hanks himself is such a thoughtful, intelligent person. That’s the way I feel about Matt Damon. I hope he, Greengrass, and writers Brian Helgeland (screenplay) and Rajiv Chandrasekaran (book) keep going after ambitious projects like this until the camera runs out of film or the world runs out of violence, whichever comes first.