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LOSTATSEA.NET > FEATURES >

November 28, 2007
RATING: 5.5/10
Brian De Palma's new film, Redacted, is undeniably successful in one regard - it has infuriated Bill O'Reilly. Blowhard Bill, the established right-wing media mouthpiece, thinks that it's treasonous to release a film about a real-life incident, in which several American soldiers raped a young Iraqi girl and murdered her family, while we're at war. O'Reilly believes that such dissent is the ultimate undermining of American troops and that executive producer and NBA franchise owner Mark Cuban should be banished from the country, or at the very least should be subject to Dallas Maverick fans waving anti-Cuban signs at home games. But perhaps O'Reilly's vehement objections should be taken with a grain of salt, as it's getting increasingly hard to take him seriously - I'm beginning to question whether he hasn't decided to fully embrace Stephen Colbert and is now just doing a parody of himself.

The film in question is an admirable attempt at dealing with the often equally complimenting and contradicting issues of truth, image, and media in the midst of a disastrous war, but in spite of its intentions nonetheless fails on many counts. De Palma, working here in high-definition video, has chosen an experimental format (for mainstream moviegoers) with which to tell his story. piecing together a narrative from bits of home-video war diaries, Youtube postings, news coverage, and an artsy foreign film. The catch is that all of the film's images are faked, created by the director to propel the story along. It is interesting to compare Redacted with De Palma's Vietnam-era work, Casualties of War, a film that dealt with a similar conflict environment atrocity committed by American troops. The traditional storytelling (as well as a cast including young stars Sean Penn and Michael J. Fox) used in the latter reaped far greater results than De Palma's latest offering, but one can't really begrudge the director for experimenting, even in the face of overall failure.



Part of what detracts from the power of Redacted is the shoddy acting by its cast of unknowns, who at times read their lines as if they'd been pulled right from a pool of extras on a made-for-TV movie, and the cheesy transition effects, presumably employed to make parts of the film look like they were cut together on somebody's MacBook. The film centers on a group of troops, ranging from a bookish pacifist to a couple of drunken thug types, whose story is "captured" on video in a war diary by another member of their squad who believes he's found his ticket into film school with the war. The group spend their days at a security checkpoint in Iraq, warily letting people pass through while occasionally flying off the handle, groping schoolgirls, and killing a pregnant woman. A French foreign film buttressed by classical music and an epic mentality, also created by De Palma, is cut into the "footage" of the crew's daily grind, like an updated version of Godard's Ici et ailleurs. Eventually, after losing their sergeant to an IED, the squad raids a household at night, committing the crime in question. The aftermath is told through security camera footage, videotaped questioning, and news footage, all presented in the pseudo-documentary method that comprises the backbone of Redacted.



"The true story of our Iraq War has been redacted from the Main Stream Corporate Media," says De Palma in the press notes for the film. While few if any sane and/or objective observers question that sentiment, there should also be pointed out the existence of many guilty parties, including the so-called "liberal" media, that have refused to ask relevant questions for so long and are only now starting to question the "good news" coming out of Iraq. Yes, there are actually some good things happening over there. And no, dissent is still not equal to treason; making a film about an incident such as this, even when it includes mock-Internet footage of a soldier being beheaded, may indeed serve to undermine a war effort, but such should not be confused with undermining men and women in uniform.

While his methods in making Redacted have far surpassed Michael Moore's efforts at propagandized documentaries (propamentaries, anyone?), De Palma isn't making this up; these things are really happening and/or have happened. But the message of Redacted (which deals with a specific incident involving US Marines in the city of Haditha), and exactly what is to be taken away from it, through a process of being left up to the viewer gets a little lost in the muddle of media examination/critique that becomes an overarching theme. Nevertheless, it's important that filmmakers examine the Iraq War through their craft, and aren't being scared off by anti-American bullies like O'Reilly.

TRAILER: www.youtube.com/watch?v=CHXwieHhLEU

SEE ALSO: www.redactedmovie.com
SEE ALSO: www.cceia.org/resources/picks/5370.html
SEE ALSO: www.blogmaverick.com
SEE ALSO: www.magpictures.com

--
Jonah Flicker
Jonah Flicker writes, lives, drinks, eats, and consumes music in New York, via Los Angeles. He once received a fortune in a fortune cookie that stated the following: "Soon, a visitor shall delight you." He's still waiting.

See other articles by Jonah Flicker.

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