Redacted Movie Review
Based upon the 2006 rape of a 15-year-old girl and the murder of her family by a group of American troops in Mahmoudiya in Iraq, the film bears more than a passing resemblance to Casualties of War, his exploitative examination of a similar incident during the Vietnam War. In fact, it is Casualties of War.
But in the re-treading, De Palma has re-conceptualized Casualties of War by conveying his story dramatically through multimedia recreations of soldiers' video diaries, a French-narrated documentary, CNN and Al Jazeera inspired news segments, web videos, night vision video, security camera videos, video blogs, one way mirror psychological observational videos, and iChat sessions -- all based on actual blogs and video streams found on the Internet. It is YouTube style utilized to condemn itself. There is no denying De Palma's howl of rage, but it all becomes another exercise in mannerism for De Palma, the fictionalizations demeaning the original video web clips by draining away their immediacy for the sake of shoehorning it into his Casualties of War remake.
Any kind of anti-war statement De Palma wants to make against this horrible sinkhole war in Iraq is tempered by distancing devices. De Palma once again totes out the director tributes -- in this case we get the Joseph H. Lewis of Gun Crazy, the Sam Peckinpah of The Wild Bunch (the ants eating the scorpion), and, above all, the Stanley Kubrick of Full Metal Jacket (what else?) and Eyes Wide Shut (and even "Saraband" from Barry Lyndon). Again, the parlor game.
De Palma doesn't stop there. He is helpless with his cast of unknowns, who play their roles as if trying out for a high school production of Bury the Dead. But sometimes the actors are not all to blame. As a screenwriter, De Palma continually overstates his case with his cast spending most of their screen time declaiming -- in a moment out of Brecht, De Palma has one of the recruits utter the obvious by explaining, "Our own band of brothers are losing our moral compass and trying to wreck vengeance on a 15-year-old girl." (De Palma is even preparing one-sentence movie summaries for the Sunday supplement television listings.)
Many critics have recently taken to task filmmakers like De Palma and Paul Haggis (In the Valley of Elah) for jumping on the anti-war bandwagon after the winds of change have safely shifted -- where were these guys in 2002? But it doesn't really matter, though, since these Iraqi war films have nothing specifically to do with the Iraq War itself, they just regurgitate bromides about the evils of war and the emotional effects of war has on the humanity of the soldiers and their families (the films could just as well be about the Korean War or the invasion of Italy) serving merely as salves to sooth the guilty consciousnesses of Americans who should have spoken out loud and clear five years ago.
But De Palma has taken all of this one step further -- with Redacted he has created war porn for the cognoscenti.
Needs more black bars.
Cast & Crew
Director : Brian De Palma
Screenwriter : Brian De Palma
Starring : Izzy Diaz, Daniel Stewart Sherman, Patrick Carroll, Mike Figueroa, Ty Jones, Rob Devaney, Kel O'Neil, Zahara Al Zubaidi, Bridget Barkan