Green Zone is a terrific film, with a big problem in its centre - it is based on Rajiv Chandrasekaran's non-fiction book. The book is an enthralling read by itself, but by weaving a threadbare story around the realistic study of the search for WMDs in Iraq and the politics of the land it takes place in, Greengrass and his writer Brian Helgeland ladle on a lot of broad political statement without contextualizing it in the tale.
The best thing about taking it a few notches up the realism scale is that it gives the action that much more gravitas. While the Bourne films skirted with fantasy, Green Zone feels immediate and visceral. This also gives Matt Damon enough room to prove this isn't just an extension of the Bourne persona. He acts and feels like a real soldier looking for answers.
This is ironically, where the realism actually starts hurting again. Because Greengrass and Helgeland create a character who is straight as an arrow so that we can see through his eyes of righteousness at all the wrong perpetrated in that land. The character is decidedly less nuanced than their previous iterations, and a stand in for some pretty solid left wing politics.
Now, I like me some politics in my films. However, Green Zone has planted its flag right (I'm sorry) on the extreme left side of the debate. This has a 50:50 chance of appeasing you, really. I took the jump with the political angle the film was coming from, but you may or may not.
Which doesn't take away from the larger problem - the completely fantastic action and breakneck pacing are all in the service of sending a message, but with no meat in the story, the message comes across as non-subtle and in your face.
Without a well thought out sustained narrative, the film falls down in documentary territory, but with a major flaw - all it has are unconnected quotes and anecdotes that are meant to paint a picture that is far more complicated and layered than Greengrass has imagined.
It is still a fun film, which makes this maddeningly hard to recommend, because the rest of it is pretty middle of the road. I'd still like to say it is aces, but it isn't. I'll say this for the film - it's hard to condemn and hard to condone, but it is interesting to think about the topics it raises. I'd recommend getting the book instead.