Director – Brian De Palma
Writer – Brian De Palma
Starring – Izzy Diaz, B.B. Rush, Patrick Carroll, Mike Figuero, Ty Jones, James Sweet, Rob Devaney
There has been a bunch of Iraq-war related ‘Hollywood’ style films over the past few months that focused more conversations in other countries rather than showcasing what’s going on in Iraq itself. Writer/director Brian De Palma has jumped right into the thick of what’s going on in the war in Iraq, documenting it in a fairly original kind of way. But rather than the film being innovative, thought provoking and well made it is in fact in bad taste, exploitative, seemingly sloppily put together and just generally a pretty bad film.
The film is basically a 90 minute montage of stories about US soldiers in Iraq, particularly focusing on an alleged incident involving the US soliders and the rape and murder of a 15 year Iraqi girl.
If you are making a film about such a terrible incident then you have to do one of two things; you have to either avoid showing anything graphic and focus more on the feelings of all the people involved and perhaps the incidents before and after the main incident. Or you have to tackle the subject completely head on, getting down to the gritty realism of the incident and show the aftermath of everything related to it. De Palma has made his film somewhere in the middle of these two, choosing to kind of hint at the atrocities happening in Iraq before now and right at this moment but not really having the guts to show it in it’s full reality.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying I wish to sit and watch a 90 minute film showing the brutal rape and murder of a young girl (amongst other terrible things) in full view and reality but I just wish if someone is going to make a film about a terrible incident such as this then they have the guts to go the whole way. De Palma’s intentions are probably admirable and genuine, but he has made this film in all the wrong ways resulting in an almost allergic reaction from me, and I’m sure many other audience members.
As far as the film goes itself, how it’s made and the like, it doesn’t hold much merit in that area either. First off, as a whole, the film is badly made, or at least it seemed that way to me. Some would argue that the rough, choppily cut style is an explicit intention on De Palma’s part but as far as I’m concerned I quite doubt it. The film starts off as a video diary account of what happened in July 2006, a first hand view of the US soldiers before the alleged incident. The person holding the camera filming his video diary turns the camera on himself and clearly states to the camera/audience that this is not a Hollywood movie of the war in Iraq, that there will be no “heart wrenching” music accompanying it, forcing emotions from you. And yet, in the very next scene, it cuts from the video diary style to being filmed in a very generic fasion with an accompanying, emotion grabbing musical score and shots of the US soldiers behind gun turrets scouting the area for threats including older people and young children. Is it just me or is that a tad contradictory on the film’s part?
The incident focused on in the film is a tragic and terrible story on it’s own but even so in a movie you need more than that for it to be truly effective to an audience. Like I said De Palma teeters on the edge of showing some of the things in full view but never really goes through with it. Even down to when we (half) see the focused incident; the camera half looks around the doorway but promptly turns away. I repeatedly was actually angry at De Palma for not having the will and the guts to fully convict himself to the project.
As a result of his hap hazard filmmaking I didn’t feel the intended emotions at any time. I felt disgust, annoyance and occasionally sheer anger but all for the wrong reasons. I should have felt those things because of what was happening in the film but rather I felt them because of how much the film did almost everything in completely the wrong way.
Despite De Palma’s reluctance to show us what the film is about there is one scene showcasing the beheading of a US soldier. It doesn’t show you explicitly but it implies it strongly enough and at one point actually shows you the aftermath of the actions by the Iraqi soldiers. On the one hand I am glad De Palma, in this one scene, convicted to the film and actually showed us something but on the other there was absolutely no need to even have that be shown on-screen. In really any way the film can’t win.
Redacted is the first film in a while I have physically been angry at after watching it. It should have been heart breaking, thought provoking, discussion starting, well made filmmaking. But rather it’s a sloppy, exploitative, condescending and at time disgusting propaganda piece. It won’t be that to all but it certainly is to me.