Column by Carl Larsen
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Nothing gets my dander up quicker than a healthy dose of good old American Righteous Indignation. And believe me, Matt Damon is so full of it in “Green Zone,” currently playing at the Regal Staunton Mall Cinema, that this erstwhile star of “The Bourne Identity,” “The Bourne Supremacy,” and “The Bourne Ultimatum” could easily be known as The Bourne Again Christian.
You can tell right away this tale, set in the chaotic early days of the Baghdad invasion (when Weapons of Mass Destruction were more real than Bush’s fantasy) is chock-a-block with Righteous Indignation. All the characters – government guys, CIA peeps, only-following-orders soldiers, reporters and noble savages all speak in deadly serious clichés.
Holy cow, it’s more deadly serious than all the Lord of the Rings movies put together. And just as corny. It feels somehow old-hat, like we’ve all been duped before on this one, why beat a dead horse?
Plus, it releases at a horrible time, just after “The Hurt Locker” won a caboodle of Oscars. If any movie ever sent another one down the toilet through comparison, Kathryn Bigelow’s chilling take on the Iran conflict did it up good to “Green Zone.”
Damon plays a group leader constantly being sent out with his buds on the orders provided by what turns out to be covert and faulty intelligence (or “intel” as they constantly and annoyingly refer to it) and foolishly risking the lives of his soldiers makes our hero’s blood boil.
While our hero tries to figure out who’s been dumping overalls in the chowder, Brendan Gleason plays a cliché-ridden CIA big shot, Greg Kinnear plays a cliché-riddled Pentagon stooge, Amy Ryan (who was charmingly Holly on “The Office”) plays a cliché-addled reporter, and Kahlid Abdalla (from “The Kite Runner”) plays a cliche-driven Iraqi with a heart of gold.
The brave soldiers are forced to run around and shoot at things as the dust and the plot thickens, and while I get nauseous. No, it’s not the bloodshed, it’s just director Paul Greengrass and his patented hand-held camera, as shaky as a drunk at early Mass. The squad races around, the camera shakes, everyone stops to mumble “something’s not right” at each other, then they start over.
I’m not giving away any secrets by revealing there’s a huge fire-fight at the climax. It’s so dark, so unsteady, and so long that, after about 15 minutes of it I fell asleep. Sometime later I awoke, and sure enough, it was still going on. Hours passed with no relief before I realized I was trapped in the crappiest video game ever invented.
Greengrass used the same gimmick in the last two Bourne movies, also starring Matt Damon, but in this stepped up the action in an attempt to spare his star just a bit of the (you guessed it) righteously indignant look perpetually plastered on his doomsday-grim face.
There was so much shaky bang-bang shooting going on that, alas, there was no time for character development for any of the stereotypes. They were so thinly drawn that if anyone had turned sideways on screen they would have disappeared.
I like Matt Damon, and some of the work he’s done since he hit it big with Ben Affleck “Good Will Hunting” in 1997. But he was so superhuman in the Bourne Trilogy and so focused in this latest disaster that there was just no possibility that anything bad could possibly happen to our hero. And that, my friend, defines a boring movie.
It’s enough to me all worked up. Indignant, even.
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