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This little gem of a movie was practically unheard of until February 2nd, when the Academy nominated it for best animated feature.  I think I remembered my face dropping and speaking a very confused question about this film.  I went in search of the trailer shortly after that.

Then I decided, I must see this film.

The animation is excellent throughout.  It’s hard to pinpoint all of the different animation styles used in the film.  The main one is obviously traditional hand drawn.  Each character has a unique look to them that matches the time period the film is set in (9th century Ireland).  There is some use of CGI as well, mostly in some of the backgrounds, though the Vikings look CGI as well (but it’s really hard to tell with them, not that I’m complaining, they look appropriately menacing).  There is a sequence later with a monster that looks CGI’ed as well that looks fantastic.  Lastly, though I don’t think this is the last they used, there is a Flash media portion (at least that’s what I think it is) that is used mainly for back story, but also for great comedic effect.  There were times I felt my jaw dropping as how visually stunning the film was.  The only animator that has been able to do that before was Hayao Miyazaki (Pixar, probably, but I expect perfection every time with them and get it).  The team of animators that worked on this film created something special.

The story itself is simple enough, but the details are so complex at times that I was occasionally confused.  It’s not the fault of the creators of the film, but rather, it’s the history and lore they used in telling the story.  As I already mentioned, the story is set in 9th century Ireland.  It concerns Brendan, the nephew and apprentice to the Abbot Cellach.  Brendan is roughly twelve years old, and more concerned at times with investigating the world and enjoying life in general rather than helping with the building of the wall to protect the Abbey of Kells from the oncoming Northmen (the aforementioned Vikings).  They encounter Brother Aidan, a master illuminator who had just escaped from the island of Iona with his cat (the name I can’t find, but he has two different colored eyes and has a very affecting personality) and an important book, called the Book of Iona.  Aidan is still writing the book, but is in need of help in finishing the book.  Brendan is all too willing to help out, but he also has his fears to overcome that prevents him from helping as much as he could.

There is also a character Brendan encounters when he ventures out into the woods: Aisling (which sounds somewhat close to “Ashley”), a fairy with body length white hair and a curious transformation.  Being a fairy, she moves unlike anyone, appearing and reappearing in random places, and also being able to climb surfaces without having to grip them at all.  At first unwilling to trust Brendan, she eventually enjoys his company, willing to learn from him as much as he is willing to learn from her.  She’s visually inventive herself with her overall look.

The rest of the plot I’m sure you can gather from the trailer and what I laid out above.  The confusing part that I mentioned before involves the mixing of Celtic myth and culture with early Christian beliefs.  My confusion is mainly due to my lack of knowledge involving Celtic myth (which, because of this movie, I’m wanting to learn more).  The two are handled nicely enough: Kells is established as an early Christian community, with the Abbots and Brothers that everyone calls each other, and the references to prayer, both spoken and in hand language.  The forest that surrounds Kells is heavy in Celtic myth, primarily with Aisling, but also with a monster that fulfills one of the fears that Brendan must overcome.  The Book of Iona is also part of Celtic myth, but as the story becomes more focused on the completion of the book, the distinction between Celtic and Christianity blurs and mixes together seamlessly, creating a rich and rewarding – and wholly unique – storyline.  The ending drags a little bit, but it barely blemishes this all-too-impressive film.

Brilliant.  Try to see it in theaters (it is downtown at the Bourse right now, which looks like it’ll have it next week as well), but definitely rent it when it comes out on DVD as well.  No regrets on this one.

A

Somehow, you wonder, what exactly is the point of this movie?  Not in the sense of, does this movie have a point, which is does, in spades no less.  But, my asking of the question “what is the point of this movie” is in reference to, why was this movie made?

That’s not to say that this is a bad movie.  For what its worth, this movie is quite good.  Paul Greengrass is a terrific action director, despite his maniacal hand-held camera style.  The action scenes scattered throughout are visceral in design, and it makes you feel completely in the action the entire time.  The acting is decent, but this isn’t an acting movie.  Green Zone is very plot driven, and the characters respond to what happens next in the plot.  There are various maneuvers that lead the characters to the end game, and even then, the game isn’t over, as the game proceeds beyond the running time of the film.

The bulk of the movie takes place several weeks after the launch of the US-led invasion of Iraq in early 2003.  Chief Miller (Matt Damon in a not-a-Jason-Bourne role that so many people think he’s in) takes his company to various sites throughout Baghdag searching for those elusive WMDs (plot spoiler (if there was a need for one): there are no WMDs) but he keeps coming up empty handed.  He wanders around, looking for answers, but getting elusive ones, primarily from a Pentagon political person, Poundstone (Greg Kinnear), a former CIA operative turned adviser Martin Brown (Brendan Gleeson, who I get to listen to in The Secret of Kells this week), and a persistent Wall Street Journal writer, Lawrie Dayne (Amy Ryan), who all know something that Miller doesn’t know, but then again, only Poundstone knows the truth of everything and will keep quiet on that truth.

Make sense?  I tried to make sense of it.

That’s probably as far as I’ll go with the plot.  Now, back to my original question: what exactly is the point of this movie?  This movie attempts to explain why America went to war in Iraq in the first place (those pesky WMDs).  There is a definite leftist slant to the movie, which will greatly anger right wingers indeed.  I don’t find complete justification in the anti-American criticism in the movie though.  If anything, it’s anti-utilitarian (the ends justify the means perspective, or as Google led me to, Consequentialism): we want Saddam out of power, so we will use whatever means necessarily to justify why we’re booting him out, eff all to ethics and morals.  I can imagine (though research is warranted) utilitarianism drove the country forward in the immediate months and years after 9/11, which is fine to a certain extent, but if you reach a point where you sacrifice ethics and morals for the sake of the end, as this movie suggests, then you face a seriously question in conscience and character.

Is that the final point with it though?  Who knows.  A movie like this desires discussion, even though it’ll split your audience in half.  Then again, we already know what happens, or rather, what actually happened in Iraq with regards to WMDs.  So, the discussion is already over, isn’t it?  Maybe not.  We’re still in Iraq, but on our way out.

So why are we there in the first place?  Green Zone attempts to answer why, and it manages to do so in a reasonable enough way.  Not everyone will agree, but not everyone is supposed to.

B