Early in "Green Zone," Army officer Roy Miller and his crew bust into a Baghdad warehouse reportedly stocked with weapons of mass destruction. Guess what? It's empty, save for a bunch of pigeon droppings.
While Miller (Matt Damon, very Bourne-ish) scratches his head, you might be surprised that he's so surprised. It's hard to remember that "Green Zone" is set in 2003, immediately after the U.S. invaded Iraq on the pretext that it was filled with WMDs. Today, hawks and doves alike have come to agree that someone, somewhere, fed us a whole load of pigeon droppings back then.
That someone, according to "Green Zone," is your government, a surprisingly pointed accusation for a Hollywood action-flick. Nearly every character has a real-life counterpart whom you may recall from old headlines. Amy Ryan stars as a gullible reporter clearly modeled on Judith Miller, the former New York Times staffer. Igal Naor ("Rendition") plays a Baathist honcho seemingly based on Naji Sabri, the Iraqi foreign minister who secretly admitted the truth to the CIA, to no avail. And Greg Kinnear, as a Defense Department bigwig, sounds a lot like Donald Rumsfeld when he barks, "Democracy is messy!"
All of which could make a decent conspiracy-thriller, but the film is at cross-purposes with itself. Director Paul Greengrass (the last two "Bourne" films) wants shootouts and shaky cameras, but screenwriter Brian Helgeland ("Mystic River") keeps getting all wonky. Casting a few actual Iraq War vets in small parts doesn't help.
Ironically, the authenticity of "Green Zone" kills any suspense. We read the headlines and we know this story. In fact, we're still living it.