Friday, 14 March 2008

Redacted - Review by Joseph Wren

Director: Brian De Palma
Screenwriter: Brian De Palma
Running Time: 90 mins
Certificate: 18
Release Date: 14 March

In March 2006, a 14-year-old Iraqi girl was gang-raped and murdered in her home. The U.S. soldiers responsible for this act also killed the rest of her family that night. The Mahmudiyah killings are re-created in Redacted, with little mercy spared on the viewer. Aside from rape and murder, there are exploding humans, a beheading, and a long montage of real-life carnage. Any interest in seeing this? Really?

Presented as a collection of home videos from a member of the squadron, Redacted looks at the Iraq War from a ‘fresh’ perspective; making it more snuff film than action film. The film school hopeful’s cohorts include an “All-American” stand-up guy, an intellectual who looks like Moby, a strong black leader, and a pair of Confederate flag-waving, misogynist rednecks. These actors, a group of men who are literally extras from the TV show Law and Order, are miscast in such heavy fare. I suppose the unknown actors are required for such a YouTube-style film, a la Cloverfield, but these guys, particularly the villains, are not good actors, and it’s a problem. Having once directed great distressed performances in Carrie, Casualties of War, and of course Scarface, Redacted is another puzzling disappointment for De Palma.

The voters at last year’s Venice Film Festival obviously disagree, and awarded Redacted the Silver Lion, another sign that European film elites are really impressed by anti-Bush Americans, regardless of whether or not their film’s any good. And Redacted may be a lot of things; a good film is not one of them. It is certainly an interesting film, the only thing of interest that De Palma has done in a good long while. To his credit, the narrative structure is intriguing, the imagery is searing, and the experience is visceral. But it is far too blunt, and De Palma shows that he is completely out of touch with reality in assuming that we have no idea about the extent of the horror in Iraq. De Palma appears to think Redacted is blowing the lid off of some huge, ground-breaking secret. Obviously, it’s not.

I know that the Iraq War is important, and I know that there’s a lot of absolutely reprehensible goings on there. I know this because I read the news and watch the televised reports. I’d know it even if filmmakers like Michael Moore, Robert Redford and Brian De Palma didn’t tell me through their movies. And that’s the problem here – the films about the Iraq War are telling these horrible stories that I already know about, which is one thing, but the fashion in which they’re going about it is insulting my intelligence. I don’t need Redacted to show me that there’s a lot of shocking videos on the internet about what’s going on in Iraq, and that some soldiers are depraved lunatics while others are heroes. Perhaps Brian De Palma isn’t trying to get through to me, but to the tens of millions of Americans who voted for George W. Bush and have supported the war; but if that’s the case, than why would he make such a vile, polarising film that lacks any discernable appeal? With its sympathetic, complex characters, Paul Haggis’s film In the Valley of Elah was more effective in examining the issue of American troops gone homicidal. While a similar situation is explored in Redacted, the film comes off as a tactless, rage-filled “I told you so” rant about the failure of the Iraq War.

This is further highlighted by the alarming fact that De Palma omits a vital piece of information – the soldiers involved in the Mahmudiyah killings were in fact tried and found guilty of their crimes. How ironic then, given the film’s title refers to the omission of information, that had I not spent a few minutes doing research the film would have me believe that the crimes committed in Redacted go unpunished, while in fact the men have been sentenced to spend the rest of their lives in prison. Good thing I know how to read.


Anonymous said...

I think this film is a load of old REDACTED. The performances were really REDACTED, it goes to show how REDACTED the career of that REDACTED DePalma is. A REDACTED script just REDACTED the REDACTED Iraq war. For REDACTED sake, what the REDACTED is REDACTED going on? REDACTED REDACTED; REDACTED REDACTED balls.

Carmody Wilson said...

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