Damon thriller is exciting, if a bit preachy

Article Published: Mar. 18, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Damon thriller is exciting, if a bit preachy

"Wait, I'm about to lose you. I'm going into a green zone." Matt Damon stars in Green Zone.

It's no secret that Matt Damon has surprised many people by turning into quite the action star.

Damon, once known for excellent low-key performances in Good Will Hunting and The Talented Mr. Ripley, has blossomed into an action veteran, thanks to the Bourne series, and is currently one of the best action stars in the game.

Damon continues his evolution as an action star with Green Zone, an enjoyable and exciting action film set in 2003 during the early months of the current Iraq war. The film follows Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Damon) as a man who leads a group of soldiers trying to locate weapons of mass destruction. Problem is, they always end up fighting through snipers and enemy soldiers and end up finding nothing at all, which is very frustrating for Miller and his crew.

So Miller begins asking questions and is told to simply follow orders, and before long he is talking to a CIA agent (Brendan Gleeson, Lake Placid) and being approached by a reporter (Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone).

What follows can be identified as two things: first, an interesting thriller that is obviously directed by Paul Greengrass (both Bourne sequels); the second is an over-preachy look at the different elements that led to the war.

The first of these is very interesting until the latter becomes the focus, at which point it simply becomes a little too message-oriented. Much like John Q or My Sister's Keeper, Greengrass and writer Brian Helgeland (Payback) spend a little too much time making sure the viewer understands their message (by repeatedly beating the viewer over the head with it) and not enough time focused on the film's dramatic elements.

And then there is Greengrass' trademark shaky camera that I simply don't understand. When I saw The Bourne Supremacy in 2004, I wondered why he couldn't keep his camera still - he's constantly zooming in, zooming out, shifting focus or moving around the room. It's almost like he's scared of still shots.

While the constantly-moving camera seemed to work in the Bourne sequels, I found it more of a distraction in Green Zone, because it calls so much attention to itself. It's nauseating, for one, but it's also a constant reminder that you're watching a movie. I've always thought the best action shots are the longer ones that focus more on the action than camera movement or rapid editing (like Spider-Man 2); Green Zone cuts so fast from so many shaky camera angles that I couldn't always figure out who had the upper hand in the battle.

I know it sounds like I'm complaining about a lot of things, but they are all smaller in the scheme of things. Great performances from Damon, Gleeson and Greg Kinnear help flesh the characters out and, despite being too message-oriented, the film raises a lot of questions that will leave audience members with plenty to talk about. While I don't see myself rounding up friends to see Green Zone again, I definitely enjoyed the experience.

Green Zone is rated R for violence and language. It is currently playing at the Regal Cinema 7 in Boone.

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