Brian De Palma examines the use of media in the context of the Iraq War


on November 15, 2007 by Kevin Courrier

Redacted is a daring, unsettling and unresolvable work for more reasons than just its subject. Rather than simply dramatizing the disturbing story of the recent revenge rape and murder of a young Iraqi girl and her family by U.S. soldiers, director Brian De Palma, who won the Silver Lion for Best Director at the Venice Film Festival, does something far more incendiary. He's designed a modestly abstract picture that eschews dramatic narrative in order to daringly call into question how we interpret what we see and why we are inclined to repress the things that disturb us. Redacted, which refers to text that is blackened out, or censored, is not just a tract about the government spin as it's applied to the news; it goes further to raise questions about the manner in which we consume images.

De Palma has returned to a theme he explored in one of his best movies, 1989’s Casualties of War, about a similar rape and murder that took place during the Vietnam War. But in Redacted, he abandons the sweeping expressionistic style that he used in that film, and perfected in thrillers like Dressed to Kill, Blow Out and Carlito's Way, for the more lean guerrilla technique he employed early in his career in the underground political satires Greetings and Hi, Mom! But those low-budget films, made at the end of the ’60s, parodied our voyeuristic tendencies while lampooning political targets. Redacted takes place in a more advanced technological age of voyeurism in which everyone has access to a camera whether it's digital, a cell phone or a YouTube site, providing multiple points of view.

The story opens with the deployed U.S. squadron casually filming each other with their digital cameras. Before long, De Palma introduces other sources into the movie, including a faux French documentary on how the Americans detain Iraqis who may be potentially carrying explosives. When one of the soldiers does get killed, a raid is led on the family of a young woman who crosses their checkpoint daily. The fallout from their crime is presented through a variety of visual media that provide contradictory responses to the horror of what we witnessed. By the end, De Palma confronts us directly with unsettling still images of victims of the Iraq War that, ironically, are redacted for legal reasons. Redacted is a provocative, multi-layered anti-war film whose power sneaks up on you.

Distributor: Magnolia
Cast: Izzy Diaz, Daniel Stewart Sherman, Patrick Carroll, Mike Figueroa and Ty Jones
Director/Screenwriter: Brian De Palma
Producers: Jennifer Weiss, Simone Urdl, Jason Kliot and Joana Vicente
Genre: Drama
Rating: R for strong disturbing violent content including a rape, pervasive language and some sexual references/images
Running time: 90 min.
Release date: November 16, 2007 ltd., November and December exp.

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