Green Zone Blu-ray Review
PictureGreen zone comes to Blu-ray presented with a 1080p High Definition rendition in the movie's original aspect ratio of 2.4:1. Greengrass has always made it hard for both fans and critics alike to assess the video quality of his work because his style is so intentionally grainy and filled with digital noise. It's the polar opposite to what you would want from a decent blockbuster presentation, but it is also exactly what the Director intended (and the Cinematographer, who produced similarly bleak and glare-driven material for Hurt Locker). In that respect, what we get is as faithful a rendition as you would ever hope for. Detail is generally strong throughout, despite the shooting style, and despite the fact that - even without this style, the setting itself is dominated by dirt and dust, and poor lighting. The colour scheme is bleached and sun-drained, the dour, restrained palette perfectly representing wartorn Baghdad (with few of the tones on offer lighting up with vibrancy) and the night-vision and clinical war-rooms reflecting the US operations. Again, this is also perfectly in line with the material: vivid colours would look so out of place on the streets of Morocco-turned-Baghdad. Black levels are strong, but the darker shots do showcase the grain level even more than the rest of the film (and also belay a noticeable lack of detail). And the effects certainly do show out more obviously with a Greengrass movie in High Definition: the CGI helicopters feeling that little bit too smooth and clean for a movie this grainy and dusty. Overall this isn't Iron Man, there's no 3D pop or demo quality material on offer here - this is the kind of movie which makes you feel like you're getting your hands dirty just watching it - and it is accurately represented here on Blu-ray.
SoundTo accompany this relatively recent production we get a tremendous DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that really makes your living room come alive with the distress of post-war chaos. Dialogue stays comparatively strong throughout, given coherent precedence over the centre and fronts wherever appropriate (although often intentionally confused amidst the maelstrom). The effects are what really show off your home entertainment equipment, however, sparking off some amazing surround use, and bringing the rears to life with the bustle on the dusty, packed streets. Helicopters swoop down overhead, showing fantastic directionality, the dull thud of their whirling blades even allowing your LFE to get in on the action. Bass is almost consistent throughout, and not just relegated to the expected action sequences. And the immersive, exciting, Bourne-themed score rounds off a perfectly-tuned High Definition mix. Overall this really is an intrusive, oppressive benchmark-quality track, tailor-made for the material, and capable of really throwing you into the thick of things. Top notch.
First up we get a full-length Audio Commentary with the Director Paul Greengrass and the Star Matt Damon. They take us through the post-Bourne decision to make a movie on this subject, discussing the research (including the book that the film was loosely founded on), the real man behind Miller's character (and his experiences with WMDs, or the lack thereof) and the ideas behind the plot (often as penned by screenwriter Brian Helgeland). There is a nice narrative-guided progression to their comments, always relating back to the onscreen action but largely avoiding seeming like the two of them are just watching the movie. One of the more engaging Commentaries that I have come across recently.
Picture-in-Picture Tracks (HD)
The Video Commentary option is exactly the same offering as the Audio Commentary, only with a small Picture-in-Picture box playing in the bottom right hand corner of the screen, where Damon and Greengrass can be seen sitting recording the thing. More interesting is the Picture-in-Picture Featurette track that has behind the scenes footage running throughout the length of the movie, offering (often largely contemporaneous) background into the corresponding film scenes, with plenty of overlayed cast and crew interview comments.
Deleted Scenes (HD)
We get some 12 minutes of Deleted Footage with optional Picture-In-Picture Video Commentary by the Director Paul Greengrass, Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass's young son (who doesn't exactly look overjoyed to be there!) who offer up some keen insight into the intention behind the scenes and the reasons behind their excision. Amidst the scenes we get an early action confrontation between Miller and Poundstone (which was quite good, but seems to have been pulled largely because Damon had a sore throat and his voice did not come out right), a bombing at a mosque, a dramatic scene between Miller and the widow of one of the military's victims and a extra moment further deepening the conspiracy (arguably unnecessarily, as put forward by the Commentators). There's nothing here that would really suit an extended cut, and you can see why most of the scenes were removed/reworked, but it is still good to have them presented here. And the PiP track facility was a nice touch.
Matt Damon: Ready for Action takes the best part of 10 minutes to look at how the star prepared for his role in the movie: showcasing the real veterans who were mixed in with the actors in the soldier cast. The on-and-off-set Interviews have the real soldiers talking about what it was like working with a Hollywood star; with plenty of Damon's corresponding comments about working with - and pretending to command - real soldiers. There's a fair amount of b-roll footage of the scenes being filmed, and this is quite an interesting offering, even if it does occasionally drift into pure exposition on the narrative.
Inside the Green Zone is a 9 minute Featurette which focuses on several of the movie's key scenes, offering some nice Behind the Scenes footage and background information into them. Aside from the standard, expositional intro, and occasionally generic, promotional commentary, the background footage itself is nice. Damon's discusses the real soldier whom his character is based on, and everybody gets on board to praise the Director, and this is quite a nice, if far from comprehensive, extra.
The Real Miller takes an overly short 6 minutes to look at Chief Warrant Officer Monty Gonzales, the man on whom Damon's character was based on. It's nice to hear from the real guy himself, who talks about being the Technical Advisor on the film, and offers a few titbits into his experiences, whilst Damon and Greengrass fill in the gaps. It might have been more interesting to have just Monty in interview, but the way in which this Featurette intersplices other individuals' comments with behind the scenes footage and clips of the cast chatting on set arguably makes for a much more easily-digestible package. It's just a shame it's so damn short.
Recreating Baghdad is even shorter, giving us just a brief, 3 minute glimpse into the Location Manager's work to find a suitable place to shoot, and then taking us to the chosen Morocco locales. Greengrass talks about being able to stage big military setpieces there, and we get a little behind the scenes footage played over the comments, with also a few comparison shots between real Baghdad streets and the Moroccan sets.
VerdictGreen Zone is a thoroughly engaging Bourne-style action-thriller, enriched by a poignant commentary on the political conspiracies that may have taken place during the infamous 'quest for WMDs' era of the War in Iraq. It is perhaps not as compelling a study as Hurt Locker, but it offers up the same realistic wartorn Baghdad setting and throws plenty of the Director's (and star's) trademark frenetic action into the mix to keep things going at a rollercoaster pace. On UK Region Free Blu-ray it comes presented with excellent video and benchmark-quality audio, both bringing out the best in the noisy, gritty, material, and it has a superior selection of extras to keep viewers happy. Fans of the work that both Greengrass and Damon did within the Bourne Trilogy will get exactly what they expected from this offering, even if those wanting a truly substantial conspiracy thriller will still likely leave the film wondering whether it actually revealed anything new. But despite it favouring fast-paced action over resounding depth, Green Zone is still a thoroughly immersive, consistently entertaining action thriller. Recommended.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.99
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