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Redacted (2007) R 90min

November 14th, 2007 by Maxim · No Comments · 3,158 Views

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redacted-poster.jpgI was driving home from work and listening to NPR and they were just interviewing Brian De Palma about this movie. When I got home and turned TV on – there it was – the movie I just heard about.

Brian De Palma is writer and director famous for such films as Scarface, Wise Guys, The Untouchables, Casualties of War, Mission: Impossible, Snake Eyes, and last year’s The Black Dahlia. And now he wrote and directed Redacted. It’s a docudrama, a reenactment about a real-life unit of U.S. soldiers who raped a 14-year old Iraqi girl and killed her and her family in 2006. Four of the soldiers were convicted and fifth is still faces charges.

Brian De Palma was approached by HD-NET with an offer to make a documentary about Iraq for $5 million dollars as long as it was shot in HD, and when he began doing research for the film he found a lot of material not only in regular sources such as public record, court materials, newspapers, but also Internet stuff: blogs of wives of soldiers serving in Iraq, videos from the Internet and from security cameras, videos posted on insurgents’ websites etc., and then had the idea to use all this modern media to actually build a film out of. Then he saw an article about this rape and murder incident and realised, “Oh, my god, this is Casualties of War all over again!”. If you don’t remember, Casualties of War was his 1989 film with Sean Penn and Michael J. Fox about a similar case during the war in Vietnam. Both movies are practically identical: a unit of soldiers goes on patrol, one of them gets killed and the soldiers turn their anger on the local population. Gruesome crimes were committed, and one of the soldiers reports them to the superiors, who first try to talk the soldier out of it for all sorts of reasons including them being “just few bad apples”, army not needing another “Abu Grahib” etc., intimidate him, he is threatened by his own comrades, but eventually the participating soldiers are court-martialed. When Brian De Palma was working on this film, the participating soldiers were in court, so he had to modify (fake) their actual words, actions and statements (I suppose it makes it legal to make a fictional film about them then…).

The movie actually shows a lot of footage from the Internet and you-tube and such, including the deaths, the killings, the [reenactment] of the rape, the footage of beheading of American soldier, and finishes with the photographs of dead Iraqis just before the closing credits. These are the things our regular news channels would never show. Ironically, the producers redacted these pictures by blacking out the faces of those dead people for far of lawsuits, and apparently Brian De Palma had a huge argument with them about it.

Acting was so-so. Some performances were good and made me shiver. Some scenes or some behavior was not believable and felt like a TV-series setup. Most characters are oversimplified to the point they become primitive, or at least schematic.

In one of the scenes a rookie shoots a pregnant woman at a checkpoint and says that killing jihadists is as easy as picking off fish. The truth is, according to Brian De Palma, is that he’s no pompous or unconcienceous or trigger-happy killer, but he really didn’t know what to feel: he was scared to admit to himself that he just killed a pregnant woman and wanted to sound big in front of his comrades. In other words it was a panic attack. Very soon, however, he completely shut down the human in him and unleashed all the evil and rage in him.

As Brian De Palma said in the NPR interview, “this movie is a metaphor for the Iraq War: we raped and destroyed the country. That’s the same thing we did in Vietnam. And what are we going to do now? We leave.” This is certainly a controversial movie: many will say that it smears the whole army and every soldier, who, by the way, are our own children, because of the atrocity committed by a few bad apples. All army is not bad. Some will even say that those soldiers should be acquitted because under the circumstances their behavior was completely understandable. Here’s what Brian De Palma said: “when you have the war with no goal and no reason, the only thing our soldiers are really fighting for is for safety of their own comrades. When one of them gets killed by an IED or in ambush, it’s understandable that soldiers would need to channel their rage into something or someone.” So it appears that there always be attrocities committed during the wars. Such is the human nature when under enormous stress and when in situation when there’s no law and order. WW2, Vietnam, Darfur, Ruwanda… In director’s opinion, this is the war without reason. You are in a completely alien and hostile environment, don’t understand the language or the culture. He also said that you can’t get a group of people to do these things unless there is one crazed leader – something I do not necessarily agree with. Americans, even those who oppose the war, support the troops – of course, every soldier in Iraq is someone’s friend, brother or son who volunteered to protect us. And this is the root of the controversy. Certainly this film will provoke a strong reaction and a lot of discussion.

Shocking.

Disturbing.

Won at Venice Film Festival.

The movie opens on November 16.

p.s. The quotes are not exact and are my own interpretation from what I remember from the interview. The entire interview is here: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=16289254

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Tags: Drama · Movies · TV · War

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