Clickety-clack captions are the signature device of Hollywood action movies. They tell us where we are (Destination: Hussein International Airport), what time it is (11:19 p.m.), and other really useful things, like what super-secret government keyboards sound like when pressed, or “clacked” (clack, clack). They also tell you at what caliber the film is operating, which in Green Zone’s case is level Not as Good or Smart or Thrilling as It Thinks It Is and Matt Damon Has a Face Like an Old Man’s Foot and It’s Distracting.
Green Zone pretends to identify itself as a smart man’s action movie, but in reality the clickety-clack captions are a good indication that the film lacks any real political spine. Damon’s foot-faced “chief” is confused right from the get-go where the Hezbollah all these supposed weapons of mass destruction are. Goddamn it, they’re sending him and his men on a gall-danged Easter-egg hunt, and they’re showing up empty-handed! When Chief Foot Face says things like, “You’re wasting my men’s time,” he sounds vaguely Southern, but when Chief Foot Face says things like, “Get your game face on,” he sounds vaguely Bostonian, as in, “Git yeh game face awn.” Come on, Captain Foot Face, do you have to fill the shoes of every archetypal war character?
The plot—outside of the old the-U.S.-government-lied-to-us-even-the-good-guys-and-the-press-is-stupid-and-not-all-Arabs-are-tricky-but-um-they-actually-are-even-the-humble-helpful-gimpy-one-who-hobbles-around-on-an-artificial-leg formula—doesn’t accomplish much in the way of historicity. A vaguely Bushie administrator, played by Greg Kinnear, squints through his conservative-guy glasses as the world is told, “Mission accomplished,” but who his real-life character is supposed to be remains fuzzy. Is he Rumsfeld? And Amy Ryan’s Washington Post journalist—is she standing in for some real-life Gap-wearing journalist? Or, wait, do I care? Answer: no.