Since this thread is about reviews...http://movies.nytimes.com/2007/11/16...reda.html?8dpcNY TIMESRage, Fear and Revulsion: At War With the War
By A. O. SCOTT
Published: November 16, 2007
Brian De Palma's Redacted, a prizewinner in Venice and a polarizing selection at film festivals in Telluride, Toronto and New York, is one of a slew of new American movies that try to deal with the war in Iraq and related matters. Their moods and methods vary widely Redacted is furious and confrontational; Robert Redford's Lions for Lambs is pedagogical and talky; Paul Haggis's In the Valley of Elah is mournful and unsettled but I find myself drawn, in each case, to more or less the same conclusion. I am glad the movie was made, and I wish it were better.
In the case of Redacted such ambivalence may seem strange, since the film traffics in, and clearly means to provoke, strong, unbalanced emotions. Its dominant notes are rage, fear and revulsion. Mr. De Palma's premise, implicit in his choice of title and stated in many interviews and public pronouncements, is that the truth about Iraq has been edited and obscured, kept away from the American public. Debatable as this claim may be, Mr. De Palma has tried to fill the gaps in our understanding to bring us face to face with what we have been unable to see or unwilling to acknowledge with a collage of raw images and angry arguments.
An unrivaled master of showy cinematic technique, he has made a film whose governing conceit is that it is not a film at all but rather a palimpsest of found video culled from consumer-grade camcorders, surveillance cameras, cellphones and Web sites. (There are also snippets from a French documentary, a mischievous parody complete with portentous music and solemn narration.) Redacted takes us on a tour not only of the battlefield, but also of the modern media environment, where no moment goes unrecorded and where everyone is, at least potentially, a filmmaker.
Angel Salazar (Izzy Diaz), a soldier in an especially dangerous part of Iraq, dreams of a career in Hollywood and imagines that his video diary will be his ticket to fame. When he isn't turning the camera on himself, he shoves it in the faces of his comrades in arms and in the process captures their boredom and belligerence. He also reveals them to be figures familiar from just about every platoon picture since the 1940s.
There's the bespectacled egghead (Kel O'Neill), his nose buried in a book; the square-jawed, earnest Boy Scout type (Rob Devaney); and a pair of brutes (Daniel Stewart Sherman and Patrick Carroll), whose volatility will spark the film's central dramatic event.
This horrific, premeditated act the rape of a teenage girl, who is killed along with her family is based on a real atrocity that took place in Iraq last year. (The insurgent bomb and the beheading that frame this episode are also, obviously, grounded in reality.) The rape also recalls Casualties of War, Mr. De Palma's grievously misunderstood 1989 film about a similar incident in Vietnam. Both films walk a delicate line between moral investigation and exploitative sensationalism, and in both cases the measure of Mr. De Palma's artistic seriousness is his willingness to ask not only what it means to take part in an act of murderous sexual violence, but also what it means to represent it and to watch the representation.
The problem with Redacted is that the representation is an unwieldy hodgepodge of brutal naturalism and self-conscious theatricality, its potential power undermined by schematic storytelling and clumsy acting. What those handheld, low-definition recording devices capture is less unvarnished reality or a persuasive simulacrum of it than dinner theater or underrehearsed made-for-television drama.
The script stuffs the characters' mouths with talking points that are no less schematic for being rendered in a profane, macho, pseudomilitary vernacular. And most of the actors, many of them appearing for the first time in a feature film, lack either the skill or the directorial guidance to endow their characters with a full range of credible motives and responses.
Its formal novelty aside, Redacted rarely hits the audience with a genuine shock or a clarifying insight. It churns through a set of ideas and emotions that are confusing and unpleasant, to be sure, but also, by now, dispiritingly familiar. This is not entirely Mr. De Palma's fault, though I think he may have misdiagnosed the condition of the audience, which is not lack of information about Iraq but rather a pervasive moral and political paralysis. The information is out there confusing and painful, yes, but nonetheless available for discussion and analysis.
And now what? What are we supposed to do? Support the troops? End the war? Push ahead to victory? Stand up for what we believe? These are slogans, not actions.
Making a movie, of course, is a way of doing something, and I am grateful that Mr. De Palma brought such conviction to the task. Redacted is certainly a painful document of its time, a record of anguish, confusion and uncertainty. And if Mr. De Palma has in the end failed to transcend those feelings or to address them with the clarity and freshness of perspective that art requires and that the times so desperately demand, the failure is hardly his alone.
Redacted is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). It has abundant obscenity and scenes of extreme violence.
Opens today in New York and selected cities.
Written and directed by Brian De Palma; director of photography, Jonathon Cliff; edited by Bill Pankow; production designer, Phillip Barker; produced by Jason Kliot, Simone Urdl, Joana Vicente and Jennifer Weiss; released by HDNet Films and Magnolia Pictures. Running time: 90 minutes.
WITH: Izzy Diaz (Angel Salazar), Daniel Stewart Sherman (B. B. Rush), Patrick Carroll (Reno Flake), Mike Figueroa (Sgt. Jim Ross), Ty Jones (Master Sgt. Sweet), Rob Devaney (Lawyer McCoy), Kel O'Neill (Gabe Blix), Zahara Al Zubaidi (Farah) and Bridget Barkan (Judy McCoy).