Mar 12, 2010

Green Zone; White Ribbon. Movie Reviews.

THE GREEN ZONE with Matt Damon: B+

In The Green Zone, there’s plenty of action and it feels convincing. The center of the movie’s plot is the question of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq and what that question means for the soldiers assigned to finding them.

For me, the center of the movie’s soul is the casual risking of lives—American soldiers, Iraqi citizens, bystanders and patriots—based on unreliable information and political tyranny. It’s hard for me not to see our Texas royalty sipping liquids in comfort, while amazing, awful things are going on daily at a distance that’s safe from D.C. or Texas.

Yes, the movie pushed my political buttons, and it had almost the feel of realism that I found so convincing in The Hurt Locker.

So why only a B+? Matt Damon is a good action hero, but he’s all action and hero, not the complicated character of multiple facets, which we saw him reveal in The Informant. Damon does all the script asks him to do, which makes for a good guy, but not a great, multidimensional character. The white hats and black hats here are sharply delineated, which makes the story less interesting, even to one who agrees with the film's take on what's black and what's white. But if you're calm about your politics (did I say calm about politics??? in America???) and you like constant action, step right up and get your popcorn.


Black and White. German with English subtitles.

If I give much attention to The White Ribbon, I’ll be here till Monday, and the pay for this is job is so-so. Also, the movie will probably play only at art theaters, to which many of you don’t have easy access.

And finally, The White Ribbon is work. There are some beautiful scenes in its black and white cinematography, which creates the feel of an insider’s look at real life in Western agrarian culture in the early 20th century. Here is the trailer; I hope you'll click the full screen option.

YouTube - The White Ribbon HD Movie Trailer

Remember, however, that things moved slower then, even mysteries. And this is a group story, several families long.

Still, despite the ambiguity of its conclusion, The White Ribbon is a compelling, disturbing portrait of a German village in 1913. Several weird misfortunes occur and serve as catalysts for a societal study that seems utterly realistic and horrible--at least to this non-historian who likes open spaces, green fields and barns. Here is no pastoral idyll with cute farm animals and nearby copses. (Corpses, maybe; copses, only a little). What’s revealed is a paternalistic, cruel little world, from which anyone's escape seems difficult or impossible.

The narrator is the young schoolmaster. His romance with the baron's nanny is the streak of innocence, the genuine white ribbon, crawling through the narrative. However, even that love story is fraught with conflict and danger.

Some reviewers might have made too much of the setting as the breeding ground for a specifically Nazi mentality; here are Hitler’s henchmen as children, they say or imply. That might be true, but I suspect it’s a valid portrait of small towns anywhere in Europe or America at that time. For example, I think of Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio, its puritanical voyeurism, paranoia and repression.

This is not a movie for intellectual sissies; you'll need to pay attention. Also, if you normally need to . . . stretch your back? . . . at a movie, do so by the 90th minute; this ugly little beauty lasts over two hours, but the conclusion is important, and the whole film is well worth the trial. I think I'll be seeing some of these images for months or years.

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