Of all the Iraq war films that have come out in the last couple of years, Brian De Palma's Redacted is by far the most controversial. A depiction of U.S. soldiers in less than a favorable light has caused politicians, groups and commentators, such as Bill O'Reilly, to call for boycotts of the film. O'Reilly isn't exactly a good gauge of how controversial the movie is, since he'll make anything a controversy if it'll improve his ratings, but Redacted certainly won't sit well with a lot of people. Even if you can get past the political implications, however, the fact remains that Redacted is still a terrible movie.
Redacted is a docudrama that show various stories stemming from a group of soldiers. The characters talk to the camera as if they were filming the movie themselves, and at times De Palma throws in "footage" from al Qaeda websites, news stations and more. While the characters are generally deplorable in their own right, the movie evokes strong emotions from its "fictional" retelling of the brutal gang-rape and murder of Abeer Qasim Hamza al-Janabi, a 14-year old Iraqi girl. The soldiers also killed her family to cover up the crime.
The problem with Redacted is two fold:
- The characters are impossible to like. If De Palma was trying to show how normal men can be turned into villains by war, that does not come across in the movie. Every soldier in the film, even the ones who show remorse for the atrocities they commit, is unlikable from the beginning. They're racist, misguided bastards who don't have a care in the world, and as such, it's impossible for the audience to care about them. That may be intentional, but I don't have any interest in a film where I can't stand a single character.
- Redacted is a bloody mess. The storytelling, if you can call it that, is so fragmented that it looks like a monkey shot and edited the film. The dialogue is inane at times, but there is no real purpose to the film other than to show that the soldiers are complete assholes who deserve to die. De Palma, who hasn't made a good film since 1996's Mission: Impossible, appears to be getting worse and worse year after year.
If there were a political message here, I wouldn't mind. Filmmakers have a right to do what they want to do, and the war should be looked at critically. Full Metal Jacket is a perfect example of a war film that depicts normal men forced to do horrible things in the name of war and patriotism, and Redacted, while completely different in its approach and execution, apparently had a similar vision in mind. Unfortunately, Redacted is no Full Metal Jacket. Hell, it hardly resembles a coherent movie.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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