The Green Zone is where, in the days after the fall of Iraq, Paul Bremer and his gang of Coalition Provisional Authority goons tried to run the rebuilding of the country. Here’s an image of just how doomed to failure this was: every meal, every day, served in the Green Zone cafeteria, which was staffed by Muslims in a Muslim nation, included pork. Life inside the Green Zone quickly became some sort of alternate universe where young Americans without foreign policy experience or understanding of Iraq tried to put the nation back together again in their own image while screwing in abandoned buildings, mismanaging funds and dealing with occasional mortar attacks.
All of this is detailed in Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s terrific book, Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone. Now Paul Greengrass is adapting the book into a feature, bringing his own unflinching eye for realism to the inside story of just how badly we fucked things up.
Greengrass, whose United 93 has been getting its due from critic groups but might sadly be ignored at Tuesday’s Oscar nominations, is currently directing The Bourne Ultimatum, and he’ll go into Imperial Life in the Emerald City almost immediately after finishing that up; shooting will start at the end of the year. This guy doesn’t like taking excessive time between projects, that’s for sure.
I feel like we’ve been inundated with films about Iraq – most have so far been documentaries, but there are a number of narrative films coming up that tackle the war as well. Most of these have been soldier’s-eye-view type stories, though, and while it’s certainly valid to look at how the war affects those who fight it, we need more focus paid on just how it became the clusterfuck it is today, and that story isn’t on the streets of Baghdad but inside the blast walls surrounding the Green Zone.
Greengrass is a tremendous choice for this project. For the last few years I have felt that “M*A*S*H in the Green Zone” is a killer pitch, and while I doubt this movie will be half as light as that, there’s something Altman-esque in the way that Greengrass works with large casts and realistic dialogue that sounds like you’re catching it on the fly.