This Film is NOT a Future Release.
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December 14th, 2009:
A thriller about a pair of CIA agents on the trail of certain Weapons of Mass Destruction and a foreign correspondent following their mission. Inspired by Imperial Life in the Emerald City.What to Expect:
So. Welcome to the film that may have killed the Bourne franchise. Feel like buying a ticket?
The film is Paul Greengrass's "Green Zone," or "Not a Bourne Film, But An Amazing Facsimile." Long referred-to on blogs as "Jason Bourne Goes to Iraq," Greengrass's pet project is set to open in March after being delayed and costing 50% more than Universal bargained for. Article continues below
The film is based, loosely, upon Rajiv Chandrasekaran's book "Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone," which is a non-fiction account of the problems in the US's reconstruction of Iraq and how it went wrong. Based on that we might expect a subtle, nuanced portrayal of an impossibly difficult situation, or perhaps an ironic treatment of faux seriousness in the vein of "The Men Who Stare At Goats." But it seems clear now that the film is an action-thriller, which only means that the shadow of Bourne is stalking it relentlessly given that it shares a star and a director with that series.
Here's the sitch. In exchange for their participation in the fourth Bourne film, Universal gave Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon time and money to make this a grittier, more political film set in the Iraq War. This represents a pretty big perk offered by Universal, considering that there has yet to be a successful film about the Iraq War. The annals of cinema of the last decade are littered with the corpses of dead-on-arrival films like "Rendition," "Lions for Lambs," "Stop-Loss," "Redacted" and even "The Hurt Locker," although the latter's critical acclaim may boost it come awards season. So for Universal to give two of its more marketable creative powers, who together have given the studio its only successful franchise, carte blanche to go off and make an Iraq War movie represents the depth of their commitment to more Bourne films.
The pressure on Greengrass and Damon to deliver a fourth Bourne film can't really be overstated. Universal is perhaps the studio in the worst overall financial shape, with few hits in 2009 and no major award contenders in the wings. Get this, too...just last week, General Electric spun off NBC Universal into its own company with Comcast buying a 51% share in NBC Universal, and Comcast actually asked Damon's representation about the odds of him doing another Bourne film because that would figure into their valuation of the studio. Getting the picture?
So keeping Greengrass happy and doing more Bourne films was high on Universal's to-do list. Keeping Universal happy doesn't seem to have entered Greengrass's thoughts, however. He's already known to be a problematic and expensive director, prone to "finding the film" organically in the middle of shooting, script or no script, which usually costs a lot of money for the shooting of way more footage than usual and a lot of time in the editing room. This is what sent Bourne 3's budget soaring. But that film delivered. Universal was much less confident in "Green Zone"'s commercial potential so they rode Greengrass hard to keep things under control, and reportedly the director chafed against the studio's financial worries.
So what about the film itself? The story, "inspired by" Chandrasekaran's book, was penned by big-time screenwriter Brian Helgeland, writer of "L.A. Confidential" and "Mystic River" (and "The Order," but hey, nobody's perfect). Word is that Greengrass wanted Tom Stoppard, but he wasn't available. Damon plays Warrant Officer Roy Miller, an operative sent to Iraq to lead a team of inspectors searching for WMDs. You can imagine how well that goes. He ends up discovering evidence that turns what he's been told upside down, and must search for The Truth while being obstructed by oily bureaucrats and seemingly aided by CIA operative Brendan Gleeson. That sounds...pretty cookie cutter, honestly. Regular hardworking hero guy must battle the Powers that Be to get to the truth after being misled by those he thought he trusted! Quelle horreur! You can't handle the truth!
So it's an action thriller, Damon's not playing Jason Bourne but it seems like he might as well be. The budget bloated from $100 million to $150 million, and Greengrass couldn't stop tinkering with it in the editing studio. The release date, originally fall of 2009, was moved to March 2010. Normally a move like that, which cuts the film out of Oscar consideration, means the studio isn't too confident about its quality, but this may be a consequence of Greengrass's editing schedule. It may also be a consequence of Damon having another Oscar-bait film, "Invictus," opening in December.
We just can't talk about this film without talking about Bourne, because as a more-or-less result of what happened with "Green Zone," Greengrass has walked off any further involvement in the Bourne franchise.
Sick of Universal's penny-pinching, and probably feeling pretty butthurt that they wouldn't trust him after the job he'd done for them on two Bourne films and "United 93," Greengrass doesn't seem to have been too enthused to pick up the reins of Bourne again. Damon repeatedly said that they didn't have a script, and that no one would move forward without a script they were enthusiastic about. George Nolfi was supposedly developing a Bourne 4 script; Nolfi wrote "The Bourne Ultimatum" and is directing his own script of "The Adjustment Bureau" starring...wait for it...Matt Damon. Damn, that guy is everywhere.
So wha happa? Well, Universal seems to have wanted to move things along faster, so they hired another screenwriter, Josh Zetumer, to write a "parallel" script. What, you may ask, is a parallel script? Well, I'm not sure, but from the context I can presume that it means "a script other than the one we have because no one likes it." No one was crazy about Nolfi's script, development was stagnating, Greengrass was still in the "Green Zone" so Universal hired some new blood. This did not go over well with Greengrass, who wasn't told about Zetumer's script or even that another script was being commissioned. So he walked.
What does this mean for Bourne? Nothing good. Damon is said to be loyal to Greengrass, and won't do another Bourne film without him. Scuttlebutt says that Greengrass has pulled this before and he and Universal may very well mend their fences and go ahead with work on Bourne 4, but as of now the project's dead.
What about poor, red-headed stepchild "Green Zone?" Universal seems to be doing everything in its power to sell it like Bourne Does Iraq, and that might work. Whether the actual film bears any resemblance to the Bourne films is another question, but Greengrass's stamp is all over it. Damon is a strong draw these days, especially in Bourne mode. He's shed those extra "Informant" pounds and by the time the film opens, he could be coming off some "Invictus" success and even award nominations. Time will tell. Either way, "Green Zone" seems to have been the Achilles heel in the Bourne franchise, which has been sacrificed on the altar of this Iraq War film hoping to be the first of its kind to make any money. You can bet that cash-strapped Universal is hoping to break the Iraq!Fail movie streak, and if the film is exciting, it might just do that.In Conclusion:
Iraq War films are box office poison. Full stop. Not a one has yet been financially successful. Universal was willing to let Greengrass make one in exchange for more Bourne, which they're...not getting. So you can bet they'll be throwing all their marketing muscle behind "Green Zone." That, coupled with the lackluster March season and lack of competition and Damon in ass-kicking mode (who doesn't love that?) might propel this one to some coin. I bet if it does, we'll see Greengrass and Universal mending their fences and getting back into the Bourne business.Similar Titles: Bourne Ultimatum
, The Hurt Locker