Despite sharing its director, Paul Greengrass, and its star, Matt Damon, Green Zone is not just another Bourne film. This is also in spite of the advertising. Apparently Universal really wants you to believe this is another adventure for Jason Bourne, considering how much they are playing up the connection in the action-oriented trailer. Now don't go and get fooled — this is not exactly the film advertised. Yes, the director and star are correct and Greengrass's trademark shaky-cam are in full effect, but this is no mere conspiracy actioner. It takes a slightly more serious and controversial bent. It is a film that is sure to split the politically minded in the audience.
Green Zone seems like the perfect step for a filmmaker like Greengrass. It is a well balanced blend of crowd-pleasing action/adventure and political commentary (or at political questioning or suggesting). It essentially combines his work in docu-dramas like Bloody Sunday and United 93 with his more populist work on the second two Bourne films. This is not to say Green Zone is fact; it makes no claims to be true, but it does draw strong parallels to the real world.
Greengrass and screenwriter Brian Helgeland, working from a book by Rajiv Chandrasekaran for inspiration, have taken real world stories and turned them into a fictional exploration of those early days of the occupation of Iraq. It employs coincidences, a minimal number of characters, and the unlikely idea that a single soldier on the ground would be the singular focal point for the coincidences. The commentary is blended with the thriller aspects where it is stirred into an even mixture which is then poured over the film where it will serve as many as will have it.
To describe the plot, or attempt to describe the plot would likely end up in confusion. Whether it would be your confusion or my own I do not know, but it would be there. What is surprising is that the film tells the story with stunning clarity. It is easy to follow and even though we already know the real world outcome, is surprisingly tense. Without going into everything, let's take a high level look at the story.
Damon is Chief Miller. He leads a team checking out locations marked as hot spots for WMDs (weapons of mass destruction). Each location turns up nothing. This makes Miller begin to question the source of the tips. Who, exactly, is checking up on the intel and verifying it is good? It is a question that is notoriously difficult to answer as no one is talking. This brings in US Intelligence officer Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear) and CIA officer Martin Brown (Brendan Gleeson). These two are on opposite sides of the coin as Brown has an idea of how to approach the growing situation rationally, while there is something distinctly slimy about Poundstone; the guy is hiding something.