Paul Greengrass' foray into Iraq movies screened after WW press deadlines, but here's a review.

Green Zone

Matt Damon in Green Zone

WW Critic's Rating: 61

Among his many achievements with The Bourne Ultimatum, director Paul Greengrass managed two remarkable tasks: He made even the most mundane tasks seem exciting, and he delivered a plot that seemed a hell of a lot smarter than it really was, giving the audience a sense of being rewarded for its intuition even though most of the conspiracy-theory revelations were written on the wall, in bold. And for all its slam-bang action sequences, Greengrass' most suspenseful bit in the film was arguably a scene in which Matt Damon's amnesiac assassin guided a paranoid journalist through a transit station using a cell phone. That scene was whip-smart, it was tense, and it was conducted in a style that has since been identified with, and stolen from, the director.

With Green Zone, the director re-teams with his unlikely Bourne badass Damon for a story about the early days of the Iraq war, and again Greengrass tries to milk maximum tension out of every aspect of the film—only this time it's executed so ham-fistedly that it comes off as a cheap knockoff of his own style. No amount of flashy editing, no grainy cinematography by The Hurt Locker's Barry Ackroyd, intense music or shakycam pandemonium will ever, ever, make a Google search exciting. Yet Green Zone has several sequences of white-knuckle Googlery—oh, and Microsoft Outlooking—throughout a dull narrative that packs neither surprises nor punches.

Green Zone follows Damon's Warrant Chief Miller, tasked with finding WMDs in the months following the 2003 invasion of Iraq (SPOILER ALERT: He doesn't find any). Using a mysterious informer code-named Magellan for intelligence, Damon and his team grow frustrated with dead-end leads, and that's when our hero gets to scowling and asking questions. Before you can say "Mission Accomplished," Damon is balls deep in shifty politicians forcing a meritless war (led by a sleepwalking Greg Kinnear). He's also dodging bullets, following leads, frowning and Googling his ass off. The great Amy Ryan shows up for a wasted stint as a hapless journalist, while Brit heavyweight Brendan Gleeson plays a CIA agent who appears to have taken vocal coaching lessons from Burgess Meredith, spouting lines about intergovernmental conspiracies that seem pulled from a John Grisham book.

Ah, but Grisham this isn't. Green Zone takes its cue from Rajiv Chandrasekaran's Imperial Life in the Emerald City, and it's a shame the result is such a tin-eared, hindsight-benefitted finger wag at our rush to Iraq. As Damon tracks a disbanded Bathist general through alleys during a series of hastily edited and incomprehensible chases, we get all kinds of good ideas that never pop, from a good-hearted and legless Iraqi informer to a trip to a prison populated with black hoods. Even Greengrass' usually jarring action sequences fall flat. Just like our hero, the film trudges on to dead-end leads. We're seeking a payoff—or at least some Bourne-style ass beating—that doesn't actually exist. R.

Opens today at Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing, Century Eastport 16, Cinema 99 Stadium 11, Cinemas Bridgeport Village Stadium 18 IMAX, Cinetopia, City Center Stadium 12, Cornelius 9 Cinemas, Division Street Stadium 13, Evergreen Parkway Stadium 13, Hilltop 9 Cinema, Lloyd Center Stadium 10 Cinema, Movies On TV Stadium 16, Oak Grove 8 Cinemas, Pioneer Place Stadium 6, Sandy Cinemas, Sherwood Stadium 10, Tigard 11 Cinemas, Wilsonville Stadium 9 Cinema.