Keith Gordon is a creative young man who films the oddball doings of his family and peers. "The Maestro" appears frequently to give him pointers on his techniques. It's almost a film about ... See full summary »
Has moments but is mostly unconvincing in its construct and delivery
Using video-diaries, YouTube postings, news reports and other footage, this film tells the story of one unit of US marines serving in Samarra. The heat is intense, the hours are long, the work is dull and the monotony is only broken by the occasion attack or defence of the check-points. When one of the unit is killed by an improvised explosive device, tensions are further increased and the night raids intensify to pick up suspects. However, for a couple of individuals the need for both revenge and release is almost too much to bear.
Reading the reviews on this title from IMDb users it is clear that too many people are bringing their politics to the film and some have seen the issues not the piece of work itself. So we have 10* reviews saying that "Americans don't like their own dirty laundry" and 1* reviews labelling it a "disgrace" and practically aligning De Palma with the 11th September terrorists. This does happen with such films but it is of no use to me even if my politics suggested that I should love this more than hate it. The truth is that my politics never came into it because what I was confronted with was a good idea, a topical issue, has good moments but mostly it is unconvincing and obvious in its structure and delivery.
As an idea, the brutal or callous actions of a minority of Allied forces in Iraq is an important subject and one worthy of an intelligent and impacting presentation. Likewise the use in this war of many, many different types of media that allow us to "see" the war for ourselves which is perhaps a mixed blessing is an interesting way to deliver a story. However the film doesn't manage to pull it all together in a consistent and convincing manner. It has its moments of course; the central atrocity is a shocking and difficult scene for what you don't see more than what you do but otherwise the scenes and characters don't flow together in the way that that one scene engages and convinces. I can understand why some of it felt stilted and strange because ultimately vlogs etc do feel a bit cheesy and corny at times but to me this just meant that the characters had to be extra strong so that they could stand up to the media. Sadly though they are too obvious and simple, almost to the point of cliché and they make it all feel too simplistic too easy to dismiss as biased and angry.
The dialogue doesn't help this either since it is often clumsy as it attempts to make a point or a bit too "acted" when it is supposed to be natural and jocular. De Palma's use of the various media doesn't work anywhere near as well as I thought it could; the documentary with its overuse of classical music drags on and is a poor copy of some of the music used in the film Afghansti (which is so similar that it must have been but the latter uses it sparingly and surrounds it with substance). The central vlog stumbles due to the acting and material being presented that way. It is not really the cast's fault since they are mostly unknowns and perhaps not given the best tools to show what they can do but it does mean the film is mostly reasonably poor. De Palma does deserve credit for taking on a challenging and topical project where he could just continue to rest of his laurels and take easy projects for money, but this does not buy him a free pass because good intentions are not anything unless they are followed through on the ground.
Redacted is just that a good plan on paper but the execution is lacking across the board, taking away from even the plan itself. Those looking to feel the film's anger and outrage will probably get more from it than the casual viewer but just because a film works when playing to the choir doesn't mean it is good. Sadly for the casual viewer I suspect it will come over as too obvious, preachy and half-done to really impress.
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