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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Green Zone

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

The early stages of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and the ultimately fruitless search for the Saddam regime's weapons of mass destruction, provide the context for "Green Zone" (Universal), an idealistic but raw combat drama.

Loosely inspired by journalist Rajiv Chandrasekaran's 2007 best-seller "Imperial Life in the Emerald City," this is the fictional tale of dedicated Army Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Matt Damon). Frustrated that his unit's hunt for the weapons of mass destruction that served as the justification for American intervention has led only to a series of dead ends, Miller begins to question the validity of the intelligence reports on which he and his comrades have been relying.

His doubts bring him to the attention of two feuding residents of the titular American enclave within the Iraqi capital: Defense Department official and ideologue Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear), who's wholly indifferent as to how the conflict began so long as Iraq can be transformed into a functioning democracy, and rogue CIA station chief Martin Brown (Brendan Gleeson), a veteran Middle East analyst who believes the entire operation rests on a foundation of lies and fabrications.

Miller's pursuit of the truth also leads him to Wall Street Journal reporter Lawrie Dayne (Amy Ryan), whose series of pre-war articles on the dangers posed by Saddam's weapons program had helped fuel public support for the offensive, pro-American local Freddy (Khalid Abdalla), who's willing to endanger himself to help secure a better future for his country, and former Saddam ally Gen. Ayad Hamza (Aymen Hamdouchi).

Hamza's out to strike a political bargain with the new occupiers, failing which, he's prepared to help launch a nationwide insurgency.

The subjects of just war and political truth telling are obviously worthy themes, especially the very timely issue of whether a preemptive strike can ever meet the criteria for a morally acceptable use of force according to the standards of traditional Catholic teaching.

But director Paul Greengrass' uneasy mix of political conspiracy yarn and action adventure increasingly takes on the qualities of a personal crusade by Miller, thereby blunting Brian Helgeland's script's ability to dissect larger questions of real-life morality. And the occasionally gritty scenes of battle and captivity, together with the persistently salty dialogue—all, perhaps, accurate enough—further restrict the appeal of this well-intentioned but flawed war story.

The film contains considerable action violence, some of it bloody, torture, several uses of profanity and frequent rough and crude language. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.


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Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions: Andrew Dung-Lac was one of 117 people martyred in Vietnam between 1820 and 1862. Members of this group were beatified on four different occasions between 1900 and 1951. All were canonized by St. John Paul II. 
<p>Christianity came to Vietnam (then three separate kingdoms) through the Portuguese. Jesuits opened the first permanent mission at Da Nang in 1615. They ministered to Japanese Catholics who had been driven from Japan. </p><p>The king of one of the kingdoms banned all foreign missionaries and tried to make all Vietnamese deny their faith by trampling on a crucifix. Like the priest-holes in Ireland during English persecution, many hiding places were offered in homes of the faithful. </p><p>Severe persecutions were again launched three times in the 19th century. During the six decades after 1820, between 100,000 and 300,000 Catholics were killed or subjected to great hardship. Foreign missionaries martyred in the first wave included priests of the Paris Mission Society, and Spanish Dominican priests and tertiaries. </p><p>Persecution broke out again in 1847 when the emperor suspected foreign missionaries and Vietnamese Christians of sympathizing with a rebellion led by of one of his sons. </p><p>The last of the martyrs were 17 laypersons, one of them a 9-year-old, executed in 1862. That year a treaty with France guaranteed religious freedom to Catholics, but it did not stop all persecution. </p><p>By 1954 there were over a million and a half Catholics—about seven percent of the population—in the north. Buddhists represented about 60 percent. Persistent persecution forced some 670,000 Catholics to abandon lands, homes and possessions and flee to the south. In 1964, there were still 833,000 Catholics in the north, but many were in prison. In the south, Catholics were enjoying the first decade of religious freedom in centuries, their numbers swelled by refugees. </p><p>During the Vietnamese war, Catholics again suffered in the north, and again moved to the south in great numbers. Now the whole country is under Communist rule.</p> American Catholic Blog To replace our sins with virtues may seem like a daunting task, but fortunately we can follow the example of the saints who have 
successfully defeated these sins in their lifetimes. They provide us with a way forward so that we, too, can live holy, virtuous lives.

 
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