Matt Damon is a rather unlikely action star. Getting his start playing more of the prep school role before really hitting it big with as a genius in Goodwill Hunting, the guy didn’t necessarily seem like he’d have a trajectory on film that would see him fighting off bad guys with intense military training. But it definitely happened and he’s carried one of the better action franchises around as Jason Bourne. But there was a movie in there that had Damon in the lead which, at one point, could have almost seemed like a spiritual relation to those Bourne films. That being said, it was its own story altogether. Now it’s on Netflix and you can check out Damon in Green Zone on the streaming service.
Green Zone came out in 2010 and isn’t without considerable political and international layering around the events of the United States invasion of Iraq in 2003. In the movie, Matt Damon plays US Army officer Roy Miller who is tasked with finding and securing weapons caches that had been abandoned after the initial wave of fighting had ceased. During a time of massive political destabilization in the region, this part of the movie is actually based on real-life events of the time. The film itself takes some of its story from the book Imperial Life in the Emerald City by Rajiv Chandrasekaran about his time spent in Iraq’s “Green Zone” during these years. Miller’s character operates out of this titular area of the city, the home to the coalition forces.
The crux of the plotline involves Matt Damon working to uncover weapons, most importantly the WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction) which had been used as a talking point by the United States government as the reasoning behind invading Iraq in the first place. Through his time during the invasion, Miller becomes wrapped up in the various political machinations of the time which include coming at odds with both Iraqi military leaders and outfits, but also his superiors in the military (and the White House) as well. In this way, there are times when it isn’t totally clear who the central antagonists of the film really are. Check out the trailer for Green Zone here:
Time and time again Mat Damon as Miller comes up short in his search for the WMDs which has him continually questioning the goal of his current mission. And worse, whether the mission is actually the point of the whole venture in the first place. This leads him down a rabbit hole, finding out about sources supplying info to the government, the ulterior motives of his superiors, and what his moral and ethical responsibilities are in following orders that might, just might, be totally bogus. It’s an action film, but there’s a commentary here about what actually went down in Iraq during this time,
If you see Matt Damon with the coms earpiece, full tactical gear, automatic weapons, and ability to take out multiple assailants in close range combat you’d be forgiven for immediately assuming this was just another movie in the Jason Bourne franchise. It sure has all of the staples of those films right down to the cinematography and lead actor. It’s in some part because Damon is in both, but also because Paul Greengrass directed this flick and the Bourne ones as well. This film came out three years after The Bourne Ultimatum, but six years before Jason Bourne. In that way, it’s jammed right in the middle.
Joining Matt Damon in Green Zone’s cast is Amy Ryan as a reporter searching for the truth in the US military’s dealings in the region. There’s also Brendan Gleeson as a CIA handler and Greg Kinnear as the government “suit” who’s mission objectives might differ from what’s be sold to the American public.
Green Zone drew criticism on a couple of different fronts when it first came out. For starters, actual movie reviewers didn’t take to the story with it sitting at 53% on Rotten Tomatoes and 63 on Metacritic. There was general agreement that Matt Damon and Greengrass teamed up well for another cool action film, but the politics did tend to get in the way of the story. The film also drew criticism from those in the actual military for painting the dealings of those involved in the Iraq invasion in a too controversial and possibly incorrect light.
The other issue this film had was at the box office. As far as Matt Damon movies go, this one was a disappointment earning just $95 million on its $100 million budget. For a studio, this is nothing short of a massive disaster. Some of this likely had to do with expectation though. Those expecting another Bourne film were likely turned off to find out it was something else entirely and stayed away.
It’s still worth catching this Matt Damon movie though. Removed from the Iraqi invasion as a political narrative, there is plenty to like about the film and what it brings on screen.