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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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Jacopone da Todi: Jacomo, or James, was born a noble member of the Benedetti family in the northern Italian city of Todi. He became a successful lawyer and married a pious, generous lady named Vanna. 
<p>His young wife took it upon herself to do penance for the worldly excesses of her husband. One day Vanna, at the insistence of Jacomo, attended a public tournament. She was sitting in the stands with the other noble ladies when the stands collapsed. Vanna was killed. Her shaken husband was even more disturbed when he realized that the penitential girdle she wore was for his sinfulness. On the spot, he vowed to radically change his life. </p><p>He divided his possessions among the poor and entered the Secular Franciscan Order (once known as the Third Order). Often dressed in penitential rags, he was mocked as a fool and called Jacopone, or "Crazy Jim," by his former associates. The name became dear to him. </p><p>After 10 years of such humiliation, Jacopone asked to be a member of the Order of Friars Minor(First Order). Because of his reputation, his request was initially refused. He composed a beautiful poem on the vanities of the world, an act that eventually led to his admission into the Order in 1278. He continued to lead a life of strict penance, declining to be ordained a priest. Meanwhile he was writing popular hymns in the vernacular. </p><p>Jacopone suddenly found himself a leader in a disturbing religious movement among the Franciscans. The Spirituals, as they were called, wanted a return to the strict poverty of Francis. They had on their side two cardinals of the Church and Pope Celestine V. These two cardinals, though, opposed Celestine’s successor, Boniface VIII. At the age of 68, Jacopone was excommunicated and imprisoned. Although he acknowledged his mistake, Jacopone was not absolved and released until Benedict XI became pope five years later. He had accepted his imprisonment as penance. He spent the final three years of his life more spiritual than ever, weeping "because Love is not loved." During this time he wrote the famous Latin hymn, <i>Stabat Mater</i>. </p><p>On Christmas Eve in 1306 Jacopone felt that his end was near. He was in a convent of the Poor Clares with his friend, Blessed John of La Verna. Like Francis, Jacopone welcomed "Sister Death" with one of his favorite songs. It is said that he finished the song and died as the priest intoned the Gloria from the midnight Mass at Christmas. From the time of his death, Brother Jacopone has been venerated as a saint.</p> American Catholic Blog By immersing our lives in the rhythm of the season, charity can flood our souls and fill us with the happiness for which we were created. We awake Christmas morning prepared to celebrate the birth of our Savior not as a memory but as a profound experience of God’s redemptive love.

 
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