Movie critic A.O. Scott on Friday reviewed "Green Zone," a leftist fantasy about the Iraq War starring Matt Damon, in which the U.S. military are the bad guys. As shown by the headline, "A Search for That Casualty, Truth," Scott embraced the movie's hard-left politics and fantastical anti-military plot, showcased in the movie's "hero" played by Damon, disillusioned Army officer Roy Miller:
....when his search for phantom weapons of mass destruction has led him to uncover a web of lies, spin and ideological wish-fulfillment, Miller expands on the point. "The reasons we go to war always matter," he says, throwing in an expletive to make sure his meaning is clear. "They always matter."
Miller's words put him at odds with some of his comrades and with a military culture that discourages service members from questioning whatever mission they are charged with carrying out. But this dutiful, serious officer is also offering a pointed, if implicit, critique of a lot of other recent war movies that have carefully pushed political questions to one side in their intensive focus on the perils and pressures of combat.
Scott sees "a hidden history of manipulation and double-dealing" in the real-life fruitless quest for WMD in Iraq:
To anyone who was paying attention in 2003 and after, this is familiar territory. Mr. Greengrass and the screenwriter, Brian Helgeland, deftly glean material from the historical record, and while they compress, simplify and invent according to the imperatives of the genre - this is a thriller, not a documentary - they do so with seriousness and an impressive sense of scruples. They have clearly studied journalistic accounts of the early days of the war, citing Rajiv Chandrasekaran's vivid "Imperial Life in the Emerald City" as a particular inspiration, and while the picture they paint of infighting among the Americans and growing factionalism among the Iraqis may not be literally accurate in every particular, it has the rough authority of novelistic truth.
Without divulging the paranoid plot points of the narrative (Damon's character is targeted for assassination by the U.S. military and corrupt government officials) Scott vouched for the basic truth of the anti-American story. In a June 2004 review of "Fahrenheit 9/11," Scott treated Michael Moore's disingenuous left-wing screeds in similar fashion, admitting the documentary film-maker was sometimes "tendentious" yet also "a credit to the Republic."
"It is not you who will decide what happens here," Freddy says to Miller, in one of the film's forgivably pointed lines. I say forgivably because "Green Zone" seems to epitomize the ability of mainstream commercial cinema to streamline the complexities of the real world without becoming overly simplistic, to fictionalize without falsifying.
Pedants may object that the chase sequences and plot twists distort the facts, while thrill-seekers may complain that the politics get in the way of the explosions and firefights. And the inevitable huffing and puffing about this movie's supposedly left-wing or "anti-American" agenda has already begun.
"Supposedly" anti-American agenda? New York Post movie critic Kyle Smith found the movie "dumbfoundingly brazen in its effort to rewrite the facts," lacerating it as "vicious anti-American lies."
It's one thing to make a fantasy film laced with snarky jibes at the United States and its military. It's of another order entirely for an American studio (Universal, a unit of GE) to perpetrate, during an ongoing war, such vicious anti-American lies disguised as cheap entertainment.
"Green Zone" tells US troops that all of their efforts have been based on a deliberate deception. Worse, it blames the insurgency that has killed so many of our fighting men and women on US treachery.
Movies like "In the Valley of Elah," "Rendition" and "Redacted" have shown US forces doing nasty things - but none went anywhere near as far as this picture in suggesting original sin corrupted the entire Iraq war and that American officials are more blameworthy than the insurgents for the most violent years.
"Green Zone" isn't cinema. It's slander. It will go down in history as one of the most egregiously anti-American movies ever released by a major studio.
Click here to follow Times Watch on Twitter.