With a deftness of touch much akin to a US government committee on WMDs, the Universal Pictures marketing department set out to convince us that Green Zone was essentially Bourne 4. Much like the controversial reports regarding the existence of Weapons of Mass Destruction however, there were those that wanted to believe, those that did believe and those that were not fooled in the slightest.
You can see why Green Zone was seen as a tough sell. The lack of success at the box office for The Hurt Locker, despite its great critical success showed that the American public is not yet ready to explore the war they never wanted. Those against the war don’t want to see it made into entertainment, and the heavily charged political message contained within, that the wrong decisions were made for the wrong reasons, would not sit well with the Bush supporters.
So selling Paul Greengrass’ latest as an extension of the Bourne series, an intelligent thriller with breakneck action, seemed the way to go. The presence of Matt Damon certainly made it the obvious choice. The problem is, they probably lost as much audience due to some poor review scores as they gained by mis-selling the product. You see, Green Zone has garnered a very split vote critically. Look on Rotten Tomatoes, and you can see a pretty even split between fresh and rotten.
I’ve been fascinated reading the conflicting views of Green Zone. I’ve read reviews that praised its in-depth storyline, and others that have claimed it was shallow. Some reward the bravery of the honest political message contained, whilst some call it mean spirited, factually inaccurate and naive. I haven’t seen it myself yet, i didn’t want my own opinion to affect the bias of this article. But it seems to me that those genuinely going in expecting it to be an extension of the Bourne series felt robbed, mis-led, and were angry at the fact that they had someone else’s political views so firmly forced upon them.
Conversely, those that went in looking for a film that would ask tough questions appreciated it much more, and came out with their expectations firmly fulfilled. What’s most interesting is if you click the ‘top reviewers’ button. Whatever you may think of the notion of top reviewers, and whether some peoples analysis is more valuable than others, the reviewers in this section are seen as top for a reason. And their collective verdict is 100% fresh. Whether you agree with a movies’ politics or not should not colour your perspective of its quality. Indeed, a film that questions your beliefs, and makes you think about a different point of view is the kind of film we need more of.
I can’t help but feel if the marketing campaign had sold Green Zone for what it was, the review scores would probably have skewed higher, and more people would have been drawn in by the potential of an intelligent political drama. If reviewers had gone in to Green Zone knowing exactly what to expect, it wouldn’t have caught them off guard, and maybe they would have enjoyed the experience a lot more.
I feel most sorry for director Paul Greengrass. Green Zone is in many ways the culmination of his work to date. Combining the intelligent, dramatic exploration of real life issues from his earlier films with the blistering action and twisting plot details of his more recent work in the Bourne series, it has the recipe for the perfect marriage of story driven drama and popcorn blockbuster. If the commercial failure and ambiguous critical reception of Green Zone mean we don’t get to see Greengrass approach his work in this way in the future, it would be a real shame. Because whatever you think of his politics, he is making a genuine attempt at bringing thought provoking storylines and political issues to a multiplex audience, and i for one applaud him for it.
Bazmann – You can follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/baz_mann