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USA 2007
Directed by
Brian De Palma
90 minutes
Rated R

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars


Brian De Palma’s latest addition to the “horrors of war” sub-genre is a passionate indictment of the American invasion of Iraq.

Written by the director and based on an article by Daniel Lang in the The New Yorker about the rape and murder of a 14 year old Iraqi girl by American soldiers, unlike his comparable 1989 film, Casualties of War, which dealt with a similar incident during the Vietnam War (and which was based on a book of the same name by Lang who had originally reported it for The New Yorker), it has no name actors and does not take the form of a conventional narrative movie. For a director whose name is associated with star-driven, slickly visualized productions, Redacted is, stylistically, radically different, using instead the “found” materials of our contemporary image-saturated world – home videos, news footage, web blogs, security cameras and even interpellating a (presumably custom-made) French documentary on the soldiers manning the checkpoints.

As with the earlier film De Palma’s interest is in showing how otherwise ordinary people can end up doing horrendous things in the context of war. Once again he takes a gaggle of lower class grunts and shows how the ideology of American superiority over “sand niggers” and “rag heads” leads to unspeakable atrocities.

Whilst De Palma’s aims are commendable (although given that nothing has changed in the 40 years since the Vietnam incident one might question whether a stylistic retread is really the best effort that could be essayed) there are two issues that are going to inhibit audience reception. One is that in the absence of marquee names and without the attention-focussing device of conventional narrative development, the day-to-day activities of bored, foul-mouthed grunts are neither edifying nor entertaining. The other is that De Palma is not a guerrilla-film-maker and his film, for all its sincerity, never manages to overcome the simulated look of high-end Hollywood productions, its evident low-fi contrivances working against its ambitions and numbing the audience rather than engaging them.

DVD Extras: Higher Definition - an interview with De Palma; Behind the Scene and Refugee Interviews; Stills Gallery; Original Theatrical Trailer

Available from: Madman




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