Myles of Footage

I was really looking forward to seeing Redacted, a movie that won legendary filmmaker, writer and producer Brian De Palma (Scarface) his Silver Lion for ‘Best Director’ award at the Venice Film Festival. After seing it though, I don’t understand why the panel of judges considered this movie award-worthy.

I was really looking forward to seeing Redacted, a movie that won legendary filmmaker, writer and producer Brian De Palma (Scarface) his Silver Lion for ‘Best Director’ award at the Venice Film Festival.
After seing it though, I don’t understand why the panel of judges considered this movie award-worthy.
In a mostly video-diary format, Redacted attempts to reenact the events leading up to, and following, the rape and murder of a 14-year old Iraqi girl in 2006 by American soldiers. Just like the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal, the controversial subject matter in this movie caused considerable uproar within the right-wing American media and public, not only because it portrays the soldiers as trigger-happy renegades, but also because it may incite additional violence against American soldiers in the Middle East.
The movie begins with a makeshift introduction to a platoon of soldiers, as shot by the character Private Angel Salazar. The soldiers in his squad are reminiscent of Full Metal Jacket as they represent the generic characters found in any war movie; the quiet one, the crazy one, the big fat dopey one, the racist misogynist and the morally-grounded one.
Without undervaluing the atrocity of the rape and the harsh environment in Iraq, De Palma falls short of pulling at our heart strings by attempting to reenact the conditions there. After the rape and murder take place, retribution is handed out by a group of insurgents in the form of a kidnapping and beheading. After watching the footage of the vengeful acts carried out by the insurgents, in the film, an American military spokesman claimed that it demonstrated “the barbaric and brutal nature of the terrorists and their complete disregard for human life.”
What bothered me most during this movie is the elaborate script which adds to the artificial feel of the film. I admire the way De Palma presented certain aspects of the situation though, like how the showing of online video (angry people lashing out against the act, a sad wife worried about her husband posted overseas and amateur insurgent footage) gave the movie a realistic feel.
The acting in this movie is quite poor; I wasn’t impressed by the swearing, chair flipping and random interrogation techniques that are supposed to convey the action taking place during war times. I wanted to be shell-shocked by this movie, morally-branded by the atrocious nature of the depicted crime. I wanted to get the impression that I was witnessing something absolutely horrible, but I was severely disappointed.
The movie’s final sequence is a slideshow of ghastly, ‘real’ pictures taken in Iraq, showing maimed bodies and limbs strewn all over the place. The eyes are blacked out, ‘redacted’ if you will, a cop-out of magnificent proportions. This sequence is De Palma’s own counter balance to the Hollywood-ism of the movie, yet even that powerful medium failed to convey a message because the pictures themselves seemed to be doctored.
De Palma’s heart was in the right place when he set out to shoot this movie. He wanted to bring attention to a serious crime and shed light on the consequences for the soldiers involved. Redacted is currently screening at the AMC, but I would avoid it if I were you.

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