Redacted (2007) Poster

(2007)

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8/10
An IRAQI's Comment (Who witnessed the war)
MesopotamicA25 December 2007
I would give this movie 10 stars for the courage that the producers had shown to reveal the truth about was going on there in Iraq.

First of all I am an Iraqi who witnessed everything that happened since the first moment the war took place. I am not an American who is in favour of certain political wing or party. And it is really frustrating to hear those voices picking holes in De Palma's movie and accusing him of being biased or not knowing how the army operates or..or ..or ..etc. You don't need to know anything to be human!! and to stop killing, supporting, or covering for the killing of the innocents.

It is not about elections and politics!! it is about hundreds of people getting killed daily by different groups whether Al-Qaeda, the militias, death squads, or the coalition forces themselves!! The movie was so touching in every single aspect for an Iraqi who had lived there and witnessed the war. The combination of bad and good soldiers is so true. And choosing Sammara rather than any other province or city was so wise since the pressure and threat that the soldiers are under there is not the same for soldiers who are in rather safer areas like the Northern part of Iraq. Also the psychological pressure that most of those soldiers are under has been made clear in this movie; as well as, the negativity, hostility and racism of some soldiers..If you are an Iraqi who understands English, you can understand what the American soldiers mumble or yell about every time an Iraqi approaches them. You can tell from the look whether that soldier is a good or a bad one. Something that has been successfully shown and well presented in that movie.

Like most of the people who support the American army there and consider every Iraqi or Muslim a terrorist or "desert nig**r" or "rag head", most of the Iraqis and Muslims consider every troop a thief, raper, and occupier who is after money, oil and damaging or destroying Islam. But does that mean that they are right? they are both wrong!! All the movie did is that it put the reality of what is going on in Iraq in to cinema cause not all people follow the news or know which media to be trusted; moreover, it didn't say that those stories or characters are true or ever existed. And you don't need De Palma or the Fox news to tell you that!! May be it is true that they might not know a lot about Iraq, but what makes you think that you know better than them about Iraq??!!..

Another true and clever thing about the movie were the videos posted on the internet whether for the insurgents, soldiers' wives, or the people who oppose such disgraceful crimes. Also how, in the end, the innocent soldiers were the ones who pay for the crimes that their teammates commit whether physically (Salazar) or psychologically (McCoy).
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8/10
the thing we know for sure about de Palma....
auntielynn16 January 2008
The thing we know for sure about de Palma is that there are no accidental or unintentional images, cuts, camera angles or words in his movies. What looks rough was intended to look rough. What looks like a careless frame was there to look careless. This film, like "Hi Mom" & "Greetings" (and even "Get to Know Your Rabbit) is not part of the Hollywood so many "reviewers" leaving their drivel in IMDb (aka the un-united statesmen) are either railing against or rallying behind.

As far as I could tell, this was a look at the world through De Palma's own Snake-eyes - via a camera, and a script HE wrote. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that a view of the world from his camera will not look like anybody else's, and most surely won't be subject to anybody else's rules or political agenda.

Back in the day when Martin Scorsese made "The Last Temptation of Christ," I got cornered next to a conversation of religious conservatives who were ranting about the "Jews who control of Hollywood" being behind Scorsese's film. I had to laugh -- and did. They all turned to look at me like I was next in line for the noose -- and so I pointed out that Scorsese was New York Italian Catholic -- and had contemplated the priesthood. And that he'd made so much money and reputation points for studios that no studio, executive, or other influencing body could or would try to influence or control the content of his films.

So again, there's a laugh here if you think De Palma is the tool of any studio, influential group, or left-wing agenda. The truth is, each filmmaker has a point of view that is their own - - or at least the ones who make the films we want to see.

And -- if you think Hollywood -- that herd of cats who make the entertainment which may well be our last exportable natural resource -- is wrangled into the lock-step of an agenda other than making money and making entertainment, then you've obviously never met a writer, an actor, a musician, an artist, a computer nerd, a designer, a makeup artist, a stunt coordinator, or an agent. As a group, the only thing they have in common is lust for MAKING. Individually -- their beliefs are as varied as Tom Cruise and Tom Waits. And their personal agendas may sometimes reach the light in the projector -- or the flash of paparazzi cameras -- or the blare of a talk show microphone.

But the statements made in these point-of-view films are artworks giving voice and image to the mind of the artist. Like Guerneca, Rhapsody in Blue, or Oliver Twist -- art is not just entertainment, beauty, or cleverness -- it is the expression of a personal agenda by its very nature. Artists are meliorists. They believe they can, and that they have the right, to change the world.

so get over yourselves. It's not a plot. It's free speech. And Brian De Palma has always been enamored of not so much speaking his mind -- as filming his mind.
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10/10
Not a film for pop-corn lovers
g.barlas20 February 2008
I've read all the reviews above...... The American ones are thumbing down the film; and the rest of the world giving thumbs up... I join the latter group.... A courageous film (not a movie!); says what it wants to say in an understandable, simple way and yet becomes very moving.... This is not a film for people from NYC or Texas (see the very first reviews above); let them go to see the Transformers or Jumper; who'd rather sit back with a half a gallon soda in one hand and bucket of popcorn in the other and enjoy mindless flicks.. Finally an American filmmaker came up with a thinking-man's film and he is to be congratulated.. This film should be prized and shown to every war-blind and ignorant American who still blindly support the invasion of Iraq. Of course it is not a perfect film (one can never make a perfect film over such a horrible story) but yet very moving and pushing one to think over the empty definitions of NeoCons over democracy, freedom; liberty and humanity... A companion piece to In the Valley of Elah, I should say, and very well done Mr DaPalma...
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10/10
voting debate
ulkemdevrim6 January 2008
Just checking the vote statistics, it is easily observed that Americans do not like their own garbage. I think every single American must see this movie to understand what is going on.Actually the movie has an interesting appearance that the director preferred to use the online web cams and web sites etc to bring the stuff into our lives as in real life. Moreover the attitudes of privates was reflected to the screen well enough. Especially the drunken raper solider was played very realistic. Well, it is understandable that most guys do not like this movie as it is not a fabulous Hollywood one full with action scenes but this is real life my friends.
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Has moments but is mostly unconvincing in its construct and delivery
bob the moo10 August 2008
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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9/10
Impact is extremely powerful
Howard Schumann18 November 2007
Brian de Palma's Redacted ups the ante of protest films, fictionally recounting the rape and murder of a 14-year old Iraqi girl by U.S. soldiers in 2006. Using hand-held camera surveillance footage, Internet videos, excerpts from a French documentary and an Arab TV channel, Islamic fundamentalist websites, and the fictional camcorder diary of a young U.S. private, Redacted lets us know not only about the atrocities of war but about the unreliability of the way in which information is presented in the media and how we cannot trust what we see, even in his film.

Modeled after de Palma's earlier Casualties of War, Redacted searches for a truth in fiction that is deeper than reality-based documentary. Angel Salazar (Izzy Diaz) carries a video camera around shooting whatever he sees hoping to make a documentary that will be his ticket to film school. We are first introduced to his unit: Gabe Blix (Kel O'Neil), Lawyer McCoy (Rob Devaney), Sergeant Jim Sweet (Ty Jones) and good ol' boys, Reno Flake (Patrick Carroll) and B.B. Rush (Daniel Stewart Sherman). The videos make it apparent that our soldiers have lost their sense of purpose and are no longer on solid emotional ground.

The hand held video camera is then replaced by a French documentary about the soldier's routine at checkpoints in Samarra. Suddenly, a speeding car is approaching. Interpreting the signals by U.S. personnel to slow down as meaning they are being waved on through, the car is gunned down, killing a pregnant woman and her unborn child as the driver After a member of Salazar's unit is killed by a bomb, the two men who fired on the speeding car, Rush and Flake, invade the home of an Iraqi family in retribution and to enjoy the "spoils of war". In the middle of the night, they rape and murder a fourteen-year old girl, kill her family, and set the house on fire.

The sensitive Blix does not want to be involved with the mission, and McCoy goes along to try and prevent more harm but fails to stop the violence. Flake and Rush tell the rest of the company that any word of this incident will result in their death. The incident is seen only with a flickering light and the actual assault takes place off camera, but the scene nonetheless elicits a feeling of disgust. As if to try and show that the horrors of war are not limited to one side, de Palma shows the abduction and beheading of a U.S. soldier in very graphic terms. In the final gut wrenching sequence, a montage labeled "Collateral Damage" brings truth and fiction together as we see actual footage of Iraqi war victims mixed with staged deaths and faces that are redacted with black pens.

While Redacted is flawed by inconsistent acting and overly didactic add-ons, its impact is extremely powerful. De Palma indicts both the stupidity of the U.S. government for initiating the war, the complicity of the media in presenting us with a sanitized version of it, and a culture in which such atrocities are permitted to occur. Like the films of French director Bruno Dumont that show how meaningless violence generates more meaningless violence, the visceral impact of Redacted will stay with you for a long time. Slapping us in the face to show us how we have lost touch with the reality of war, the film is full of elemental passion, untidy, disjointed, and at times over-the-top, but in Dumont's words, it returns us "to the body, to the heart, to truth".
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10/10
My view on Redacted
TheFilmBabes4 January 2008
This is one truly powerful (for lack of better a word) film. I am left dumbfounded and virtually speechless. Of course we all are aware of the horrific tragedy of war, but this film really showed me that what I had in mind is a "G" rated version. Everyone needs to see this film so we can all truly understand what our men and women are going though. It really brings you there with them and lets you see what they see on a daily basis. Not only does it focus on Americans, but it looks into what the Iraqi's are going through as well. This war is not a pretty picture, and though this film documents the disturbing realism of war, please watch it. It's films like this that make a difference and spark change.
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6/10
Excessive, unfinished, manipulative - but not nearly as bad as others say
sunilm1-126 November 2007
Despite the many criticisms by others on this site, Redacted is a compelling film based on an actual incident that occurred in Baghdad in 2006. Yes, the acting leaves something to be desired, the 'mixed-media' approach is distracting, and there are some manipulative moments (the beheading, the final still); But this is still an eye-opening film on the state of events in Iraq and the trials that *both* Iraqis and Americans have to deal with daily. The scenes at the checkpoint are particularly well done. Some of the dialog between the soldiers in the unit is compelling in its own way; Similarly so the scenes with the Iraqi reporters and 'embeds.'

I've seen all the recent films about Iraq ('Valley of Elah', 'Lions for Lambs', 'Rendition' ) and think that 'Redacted' provides insights none of the others do. In particular, it does an excellent job illustrating the clash between the respective cultures of Iraq and America. (50% of Iraqis can't read the signs at US checkpoints!)

Is this film a bit of an unholy mess? Yes, but see it anyway and make your own mind up. I think this one deserves at least a 6 out of 10.
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7/10
won't be for everyone- it's an experimental drama-documentary by Brian De Palma- but it has an effectiveness in a 'lack' of style
MisterWhiplash28 November 2007
The legendary words of Marshall MacLoughan, "The media IS the message", couldn't be further seen played out as in Redacted, Brian De Palma's latest film which ventures the director back into his experimental early days as a filmmaker in New York city. In his film, the media is the message, but only in part- it's about how media is used, or how subjective perceptions are taken into account, for coverage of a conflict which ironically enough has not had the kind of coverage seen in America as in the local Iraq and European media. But what stays true to De Palma as an auteur is the idea of voyeurism, or the watchers and the audience as the ones who continue to watch, and like Godard with his video experiments, Redacted is about its subject but it's also about process.

Like Blair Witch Project, we're seeing things "as-they-happen" by the view-point of a camera that a soldier, Angel, is carrying and using as an in to get into film school someday. This might be enough for a film covering a horrible tragic turn of events like depicted in Redacted, where two soldiers rape a teenager and kill and burn her and her baby sister. But De Palma's story, based on real events which were "fictionalized" up to a point only for legal reasons, indicts the whole process of viewing things through the filter of the lens. Of course there are moments when the characters realize that they're on video, and suddenly they either get irate and continue acting as themselves, or they start to posture for the camera. Instead of the carefully plotted and directed shots of films like Dressed to Kill or Carlito's Way (or, for that matter, the similar-in-premise Casualties of War) we get the messiness of raw camera-work from the soldier, the embedded journalists, the news media covering the story, web-casts obviously out of you-tube, and as the one "official" kind of film-making a French documentary crew doing a film on the group of soldiers covering the checkpoint.

It's suffice to say that this technique is almost a comment on itself, and it's one of the curious ideas behind the experiment of Redacted that makes it interesting. We know that when a security camera or when Angel's camera put on a seat meant to be shut off captures objectively what's going on- like the "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" scene or the plot to go after the family. But there's an inverse to this as well since De Palma is filming this with a script and with actors (who arguably are good at being naturalistic two-dimensional soldiers), since there is a stylization, yet without calling attention to the self-consciousness the audience feels during this. And meanwhile, De Palma makes his anti-war film gripping in the unexpected places; a hard-ass sergeant who gets blown up without any warning at all; the death of one of the soldiers as revenge from a terrorist group; the scene with Flake and Rush where they take the camera themselves and (as proof beyond a doubt that war and repeated tours of duty have made them bat-s***) defend themselves while attempting to praise a fallen brother while one wears a duck hat.

One almost hopes the experiment would work even better as one of the director's best, which ultimately it isn't. Certain tactics, like making evident the pretentiousness of the French documentary by having Barry Lyndon orchestrations playing over, or the girl on the fake you-tube site blasting the soldiers, just don't work at all. And a few of the performances could use some tweaking. But Redacted, I think, has some bad rap attached to it. It's not simply about the obvious, which is that war is hell and brings out the absolute worst out of human beings who have no control over themselves once pushed beyond reason. It's also about the means of viewing something of the ultimate routine nightmare like a checkpoint, or the rape of the girl (so much that Angel can't even watch as the "fly on the wall"), or a questioning, that makes it a significant effort. De Palma distinguishes his film, for better or worse, by adding the connotation of what it means to watch, or what it means to get on record, or what it does to break the 'fourth wall' while questioning it during it. It has the same free-form ambition of De Palma's best experimental work- Hi, Mom!- if not much a great film in the end.

One thing's for sure- it's in a rightful place playing only in one theater in New York city; it's the kind of work that is hard to market beyond playing as an experimental piece. Ironically, as of late, it's been attacked by Bill O'Reilly WHILE it's being advertised during the show! Talk about counter-programming for an audience that, for the most part, until it's out on DVD, won't have a lick of what the picture really entails. Message?
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10/10
Powerful it is!
Rebecca Lord13 February 2008
Great movie. Unfortunately was released in 15 theater! 15!!! It's a shame. Thanks to Brian de Palma for taking the time to do other movies than commercial movies, to put his name on a simple little budget but yet powerful movie. See this movie. It doesn't matter if you're against this war or if you approve it. If you think the film is a politic statement and you don't like it, just look at the last 5 minutes of the movie. It could have been any war. It's just a reality, an awful reality. I am sure the movie will do way better in Europe as far as the number of screens showing it. I do not want to talk about the movie itself, the comment right above says it all! I just wish people would see this movie for what it is: a sad testimony of our sad world. You didn't see it in the theater, then rent it, buy it, download it...
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2/10
A work of bad film-making, plain and simple.
thetaoofjoe19 November 2007
The Iraq War drama Redacted is the worst kind of 'controversial' film. What I mean to say is that it's a movie so poorly made and acted, that no one would have had any reason to see it or talk about it if all the right-wing pundits - many of whom never even saw the film - simply kept their mouths shut for a change.

Whether or not you agree with the politics of Redacted, it's a work of bad film-making, plain and simple. However, because these Fox News and radio personalities bashed the film on the air and in print, it has suddenly become a far more 'important' film than it had any right to be. Mark Cuban, the film's producer, wrote on his blog that Bill O' Reilly was his "new best friend." Now that I have seen the film, I think Cuban should buy O'Reilly some flowers and a gold watch, too.

Redacted is an entirely fictional faux-documentary based on the 2006 Mahmudiyah killings, wherein a group of U.S. soldiers raped a 14-year-old Iraqi girl, and killed her along with her younger sister and parents. In the fictional recreation, there are two soldiers who are directly involved in the assault. The two soldiers are played by actors Patrick Carroll and Daniel Stewart Sherman.

As characters, Carroll and Sherman's soldiers lack so much dimension, it's almost like the actors decided to play their characters at one speed: "villain." Their performances might have been passable as the bad guys in a cheap revenge movie from the 80's, but for a drama that demands to be taken seriously, it's very distracting. By the time we get to the rape scene, which should have been harrowing to watch, I was reduced to a state of apathy because of the duo's over-the-top performance and the exploitative manner in which it was shot.

Sherman's role as a soldier might very well be one of the greatest intentional casting blunders in film history, and I found him to be most distracting of all. The actor is too overweight to play a combat-ready soldier. This was obviously a cheap attempt by writer- director Brian DePalma to further demonize a character who was already bad enough because of his crimes, vulgarity and frequent racial slurs. On top of that, every time I saw Sherman on screen, I couldn't help thinking that the U.S. military would not deploy a soldier who could not run, and would be the least-challenging target for enemy snipers.

But what really hurts Redacted from the very beginning is its premise of pretending to be a multi-media collage culled from several video sources. These sources include Middle- Eastern news footage, scenes from a French documentary, internet videos and a video diary from a U.S. soldier among others. Strangely, despite the fact that these videos supposedly came from different sources, most of them look like they were shot by the same photographer using the same cameras. While DePalma might have been kind enough to include a caption at the bottom of the screen to let us know where each source came from, it's apparent the filmmaker did not master their visual textures, styles or even potential.

Comprising most of the film is the video diary, which is also the most vexing of the movie's sources. The Hispanic soldier recording it (Izzy Diaz) claims to be doing so because he wants to get into film school. However, his footage is too dumbed-down by amateur editing transitions to believe anyone who studied film today - and had any hope of continuing to do so in college - would have used them. More importantly, since the film was culled from various sources, why wouldn't the 'real-life documentarian,' who purportedly combined the various footage together, not edit out all the foolish mistakes himself? Just because Redacted is a 'fake' documentary does not excuse it from the same criteria we give actual documentaries as well as all films in general. There's also the highly-contrived manner in which the soldier records the assault. Knowing the offending soldiers would not let him carry a video camera to record such damning evidence, the soldier gets his hands on a hidden camera which he installs on his helmet and then somehow manages to capture high-quality video. Where did the camera come from? The mail? Better yet, how was the soldier able to pay for it?

Having made well-polished films like "Scarface," "Blow-Out" and "Carrie," DePalma has proved to be skilled at what he does. That said, he's obviously out of his element with Redacted. A young visionary director could have handled the movie's faux multi-media aspirations, but DePalma was simply too old to learn the new tricks a movie like this would have required. Redacted should have been raw, and yet it felt overwrought; it should have been a natural portrait of life on the warfront, and yet it was a shallow melodrama; more importantly, it should have hit my brain like a well-aimed needle of subversion, and yet it knocked me down like a claw-hammer to the skull.
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1/10
You can almost pinpoint the moment when DePalma's career ended
rob-911-1629831 December 2010
It has admittedly been awhile since I viewed 'Redacted,' and having served in the military I obviously find it difficult to objectively review this movie (no, it's not a film). I will attempt to be objective and judge the film on its content rather than its political stance.

It is based on a horrific real life incident, where American soldiers raped a young girl and murdered her entire family. It was a disgraceful incident, and although I generally consider the death penalty to be barbaric, in the case of the men involved it would be a fitting punishment.

Redacted depicts the soldiers as standard Vietnam era military archetypes: the college educated white guy, the wisecracking minority, and the evil rednecks (nope, DePalma the writer isn't above resorting to that cliché).

I will issue DePalma a modicum of credit for trying to show how the characters built up to the moment where they could be capable of killing innocent civilians. The soldiers never know which Iraqis are insurgents and which ones are innocent, which leads to a tragic shooting at a checkpoint. An IED kills a Master Sergeant who was accompanying them on a patrol for some reason, and then they find out that their deployment to Iraq has been extended. They endure long hours in the heat, bored out of their minds, and not knowing where the next attack might come from. The two aforementioned cliché rednecks actually commit the rape and murders, while another soldier films them (to help him get into film school, natch) and a fourth looks on helplessly. The insurgents (whose actions in the film are always in response to American atrocities, and who never target civilians) kidnap a soldier from a checkpoint and execute him as retribution.

The main problem with this film, aside from the very thin characters, is the acting. This film was made on a small budget and was cast with unknown actors. I'm not pinning the film's shortcomings on them when I say that the performances are uniformly poor. The mixed media style of the narrative is clumsy and poorly put together, and to be honest the last half hour of the film was so poorly made that it was nearly unwatchable. There is a point when the actions of the people on screen literally stop making sense, such as one of them wearing a REALLY bizarre hat for no reason whatsoever. It almost seemed like DePalma himself stopped caring or was using drugs. I can't overstate the fact that I'm not trying to find fault solely because I didn't agree with DePalma's world view; he's entitled to his beliefs. But the film making here was stunningly, disastrously inept. And this was from the man who made 'The Untouchables'? Then again, he turned James Ellroy's most compelling novel into a terrible waste of film, so that should tell you something.

As in nearly all Iraq war films, Iraqis are depicted as faceless victims or masked terrorists. No greater depth is afforded to them. This film is a polemic, designed to elicit a particular emotional response from viewers, and has no insight into the situation on the ground. The civil war between Shiite militias and Sunni fighters, the corrupt and unpopular government, the rampant unemployment, the influence of Iran and Syria, the remnants of the Hussein regime supporters and Ba'ath party, and the lack of social infrastructure receive no mention. All you need to know is that Americans are rapists and killers, and once they leave all of the problems that were created when the British created Iraq and forced three different races of people (Arabs, Persians, and Kurds) to live together will be magically solved.

If you're from Europe, and you hate Americans and can't understand why they don't bow to supposedly superior education and presumed moral superiority, then you will enjoy this film. It caters to you, it won't challenge you, and it serves to reinforce what you already believe. It doesn't offer insight, it doesn't pose questions, and it doesn't humanize people on either side of the conflict. Instead, it gives you one dimensional stereotypes that you can easily vilify.

Brian DePalma has a right to his beliefs, and believe it or not I can respect someone who is passionate enough about a belief to speak out, but this is supremely lazy film making across the board. For those of you who were insulted by the film, know that DePalma desperately tried to get hired to direct the ultra low budget 'Paranormal Activity 2' and was passed over. What does that tell you?
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1/10
De Palma's Worst Effort Ever (Amature Hour for De Palma)
meh13019 April 2008
It's hard to believe this is from the same person who directed "Scarface". This is "The Blair Witch Project" meets "Full Metal Jacket" meets "Loose Change". It really watches like some teenager decided to make a war movie after spending a weekend watching Vietnam flicks. Has De Palma ever met anyone in the military? Has he ever worked a set where there were ex-military advisers (like most military themed movies use)? The problems with this movie are five-fold. First, the storyline is somewhat cartoonish. Second, the characters are just copies of some of the worst war movie stereotypes. De Palma obviously based the "Rush" character on Leonard "Private Pyle" Lawrence in "Full Metal Jacket". Flake is a clone of PFC Louden Downey in "A Few Good Men", or perhaps Lennie Small from "Of Mice and Men". Third, some of the Internet scenes make me wonder if De Palma has ever been online or used a web browser. They are just odd. Four, the facility the Army members use as their bunk house has all kinds of industrial equipment, including a big, pale blue wall with gauges and levers like the engine room out of a 1950's sci-fi flying saucer. Fifth, and most importantly, the story is just bad, and really hard to believe. I don't mean the rape/murder, I mean everything else The "interrogation" scene of SPC McCoy makes no sense. First, in a legal investigation, why is an NCO interrogating someone? A JAG officer would be doing that, or in a non-legal investigation, an assigned officer would be doing it.

Literally every scene, with the exception of the very first scene, is like it was done by clueless teenagers and leaves any non-ignorant person saying to themselves "it would never happen that way". Down to the bizarre (and totally implausible) final scene, where McCoy breaks down but his buddy still demands a photo of him and his wife, and the totally weird applause for McCoy from the bar crowd.

This movie is best described as the "Plan 9 from Outer Space" of war movies. No, make that the "Showgirls" of war movies. That's a better comparison. What "Showgirls" is to "My Fair Lady", "Redacted" is to war movies.

But it is worse than that, and here is why.

Every character with any relation to the military, with the sole exception of SPC McCoy, is depicted as corrupt. Even McCoy's father does not support his son. We get the impression the senior McCoy was a career military man, either an officer or senior NCO, but he tries to get his son to not report what happened. That just does not seem believable. And he refers to what it would do to "The Corps". The Corps is the Marines, but the movie's characters were Army.

It is just so odd, I have to wonder if De Palma really wrote this film. He cannot do something that God-Awfully bad. I mean, it reminds me of a middle eastern soap opera you might see on Palestinian television, the caricatures are so, so bad. Filled with stereotypes, bad stories, and just oddness.

De Palma could have made a good movie, using the basic concepts of "Redacted", but he did not.
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1/10
Bad all around
Bernal32516 November 2007
I just saw Redacted, and I have to say that I found it pretty bad. The story is very flawed, the characters are just walking stereotypes, the events mentioned in the movie are covered in the media and the style in which the movie was filmed as to go along with the title and have that "redacted look" was poorly done. As another commenter already mentioned it is obvious that the writer did not research how Infantry units operate. The individual characters poorly reflect how real American soldiers conduct themselves. The premise that the American media does not cover these events is just completely off. While I could go on and on I'll just say that it was just bad all around.
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1/10
Probably a masterpiece, but I was too disturbed to notice
Dr_Nightfly1 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I had the fortune to be among the people who have previewed this movie at the Venice Film Festival, yesterday. I am very mixed about this film. I am not questioning the "message" or the reasoning expressed by the director or by the choir of critics who are chanting hosannas to the piece. It was about time for movies critical of the Iraqi war.

My objections are based on technical considerations and on what I am afraid its contents will trigger as a reaction in people who either can't, do not want to understand, or may push an agenda that would gladly cite fragments of this movie out of their context and use them to incite even more hate and mayhem. Unfortunately, this movie is a trove for such potentially inflammatory twisted communications, which I am almost certain will start circulating on networks with exactly the opposite intentions as the ones expressed by Mr. De Palma.

My immediate reaction is one of disgust and of disappointment. I would have expected a much more surgical treatment of the issue of what is erased from our videos - redacted, that is. Instead, I was confronted with materials that, in the age of internet, I could have looked for, like the footage of a beheading, but I chose not to.

I am one of the people who believes s/he does not have to witness a rape live to understand its tragedy. Or the explosion of a hand-made land mine. Or any other gory nefarious act that human minds can conceive or enact. On the contrary, I am one of those people who regret being exposed to such violence without prior explicit consent. I felt brought down to the level of the mad dogs squad of killer rapists. And that is not what I had expected to face in a festival whose official title is about cinematographic Art.

I felt like a voyeur. I deeply resented it. Especially because one of the messages in the movie is that whoever watched became an accomplice.

I felt that certain depictions were clearly stereotyped. It was all too clear who the two main culprits were going to be. It was all too clear that the private who was filming the horrors of war was not up to the dream he was pursuing: entering film school. The production tried hard to instill a sense of amateurishness in the images allegedly coming from his HD camera, but they went too far in making his footage be of dismal directorial quality, while keeping it in the cinema-quality level of the cameras that actually did the job.

I felt I had to be put in front of a polished, pumped up, spectacularized, hollywoodian re-enactment of violence I have chosen not to watch in the first place. The feeling that a HD beheading was acceptable to watch on a 50 ft screen, while I carefully avoided it for the rest of my life, troubled me more than the fair share of emotional involvement I am ready to have in front of the silver screen. And it felt like a very bad deal.

It all went -in my humble opinion - to the detriment of the story, undermining the standpoint of the filmmaker. Some critics in Italy hailed to this as an outstanding achievement. I felt like the only - involuntary - outstanding achievement of the movie is that it tore down the invisible barriers between cinema, video and the net. Now the thin line has been blurred, and, from a technical point of view, that can only be regarded as a major step forward. It is a pity that it came from a movie that provides for no solace, no higher hope, no sense of justice. How will anyone in the world who considers him or herself a victim of the current state of the world look at a very culpable accomplice to rape and murder to return to his loving wife and friends - without punishment? I bet it will not be the same kind of thought that most of the viewers in Venice probably shared.

Last, but not least, I resented the choice - otherwise praised by Italian critics - of the music on the final stills of real effects of violence on Iraqi people. The aria "e lucevan le stelle" is one of hope, of redemption in front of imminent death, of a love that can transcend even death's despair. Probably something that Mr. De Palma lost in translation.
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6/10
A Dark Film about the Dark Side of a Dark War
MacAindrais3 December 2007
Redacted (2007) **1/2

Redacted is an interesting and well intentioned, but nevertheless heavy handed picture. It's often a tough and unpleasant film to watch. Its style is unique and works quite well at times, while at others bogs the movie down to a halt.

Redacted is shot from different points of view, mostly through the video camera of private Angel Salizar, who was denied entrance into film school so he joined the army. He is obviously one of the central characters, but he's rarely seen on film; he's the one operating his camera and we hear him often speaking from behind it. This is his ticket into film school, a combat veteran with a video diary: who's going to deny him now? He tapes his buddies as they patrol Sumatra, play cards, and talk. When we're not watching his camera, we're watching either security cams, a documentary by a French crew on the soldiers, a news crew, or what appear to be videos posted on YouTube. It creates an interesting - if not totally successful - approach to narrative, and at times creates the sense that you are actually watching a documentary - which I'm sure was DePalma's intention.

I'm sure that everyone by now, given the massive controversy surrounding the film, knows what will happen. US soldiers go on a revenge raid after one of their comrades is killed by an IED. Drunk with rage, sexual deprivation, and sadism they storm a house they raided - for no apparent reason then either - days before and found nothing, but arrested the male head of the house anyway. They go back to rape the man's 15 year old daughter, and one of them kills her and her entire family. Salizar is one of the soldiers who goes, rigging his camera up to his helmet so as to be the fly on the wall, documenting what happens. Another soldier goes as well to make sure nothing happens, but is forced at gunpoint to not interfere.

I don't' think that redacted is an anti-soldier movie at all in reality. Most of the soldiers are disenchanted with the war, just want to go home and want nothing to do with the rape and want nothing more than to see justice done, but are forced to stay quiet. We get to see some scenes where one soldier is being persuaded by his father, an army man, to keep quiet, and an attack on his story by military superiors when he attempts to tell them. These scenes, especially the latter, I would have liked to see more of. After all the film is supposed to be about the way stories are suppressed and diverted when they are deemed unsavory to the credibility of the USA. The film gets bogged down in showing us how it's being made, when it should be showing us more of the "redaction," if you will.

The use of non-actors, or inexperienced ones, occasionally works to the advantage of the attempts to create a documentary like feel. When people know they are on camera, they get uncomfortable and the way the actors are not able to give movie star performances works to this end. However there are other times, particularly moments of big speeches that it works against it. It doesn't help that these speeches are almost always over the top and heavy handed. Moments of the film are nearly laughable, and those moments make this a hard film to review. On the one hand I want to call it a mess; on the other hand I would like to compliment its messiness. In the end though, Redacted simply is a bit too much of a mess to overcome its heavy handed and sluggish execution.

There are no actual problems with the message of the movie and it does not vilify the troops as a whole. I would even go so far as to say that it is quite even-handed when you consider the facts surrounding reality. If you are out of tune with reality, and still adhere to the false reality that the USA can do no wrong, then I'm sure you'll find it offensive.

There are a couple of shocking moments in the film. One includes an IED explosion, the killing of a pregnant Iraqi thanks to a misunderstanding at a checkpoint, and another scene involving a kidnapped soldier. The ending however is probably the most powerful, and gruesome portion of the film.

The final moments, under the heading "Collateral Damage," show the bloodied, dismembered, and dead bodies of Iraqi men, women and children - the only doctoring done, is the digital covering of their faces. On that note, I will take the same course as the film, and end this review.
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De Palma returns to the 60s
tieman6429 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Because "Redacted" concerns war-crimes committed by American soldiers in Iraq, the connection to De Palma's early war film, "Casualties of War", seems obvious.

But the stronger connection is to "Greetings" and "Hi Mom!", two then-counter-cultural political comedies more influenced by Godard than Hitchcock. Here De Palma dumps his elegant camera (used so effectively in "Carlito's Way" and "The Untouchables") and shoots "Redacted" as he did his early films, by flamboyantly mixing satire, documentary, voyeurism, journalism and improvisation.

But those who go to "Redacted" looking for the more elegant De Palma touches, won't be disappointed. In addition to the video screens that recall the director's obsession with split-screen, there are also several elaborate shots which echo earlier scenes in De Palma's filmography.

Thematically, the film is concerned about the falsity of images. The opening scene has one trooper taking a photograph of his comrades. They're leaning against a wall, moaning and grumpy, until he tells them to smile. When they smile, he snaps his camera and the photograph is recorded. History will record these man standing cheerfully against a wall, happy, proud to be fighting for freedom. But this snapshot creates a false impression. The recorded image is a lie.

At the end of the film, De Palma himself plays a character (off screen) who takes a photograph of one of the troops in a bar, back in the USA. After a painful and heart wrenching monologue, the trooper is asked to wipe his tears and smile for a homecoming photograph. Again the photo lies and creates the false, recorded impression of happiness.

The film's final image, which is the staged corpse of a raped girl, is a similar lie. But instead of something real photographed to create a false impression, it's something fake photographed to create the truth. This contrast has always interested De Palma; truth in fakery, lies masquerading as fact.

"Redacted" is also self-consciously a take on the platoon movie, with several Kubrick references (from "Barry Lyndon" to "Full Metal Jacket") on display. One glasses-wearing intellectual/moralist seems oddly similar to Kubrick's Private Joker, and one psychotic character conjures up Gomer Pyle. Then there's Kubrick's Animal Mother and a tongue in cheek homage to "Barry Lyndon" (zooms and music), used to emphasise military boredom, and the uselessness of (political) high art.

By using Kubrick's score, De Palma is essentially acknowledging that he's made this film already. He's expressing his annoyance at having to re-teach modern audiences, whilst simultaneously acknowledging that they won't learn.

The film is simple yet provocative and makes a great companion piece to Michael Winterbottom's "Road to Gunatanamo". Both pictures are shot with a grungy, pseudo-doc feel. De Palma's is far more frenetic, mixing medias and points of view, whilst Winterbottom goes for a voyeuristic, fly-on-the-wall approach. In terms of storytelling, Winterbottom's approach works best. We side with his victims and systematically follow them through their ordeal. De Palma's approach is one of frenetic copy and pasting, piecing together blogs and stitching together characters and sequences. It's more cinematic, more engaging and more visceral, but casual audiences will find this off-putting, not seeing the larger metaphorical messages being played out, and instead focusing wrongly on the "rape story".

Both "Guantanamo" and "Redacted" work best when taken together. They're unambiguous and completely anti-American (or anti George Bush). Winterbottom calls for the U.S. to stop policing the world and start policing itself, to stop detaining and torturing without evidence and to stop bulling without motive, whilst De Palma basically says, "get the f**k out of Iraq!".

It's a shallow viewpoint, but at the Q and A session De Palma basically admits this himself. He was given 5 million dollars and set out to hastily and cheaply film a simple statement. If the film doesn't go down as a great war movie, it will go down as a great reactionary piece of angry cinema.

Predictably, (or cowardly) the film has already been slapped with a "limited release" in the US, so it's likely only to be appreciated by the French, who've long had a huge De Palma fetish. End result, another powerful message movie and artistic statement rendered completely useless. But no one watched "Road to Guantanamo" anyway. So nothing's changed.

Still, at least the film can be appreciated by De Palma geeks as a nice return to the 60s. The style is engaging and you're always on the edge of your seat. The characters, in typical De Palma fashion, are cartoonish and larger than life. No realism here. De Palma's reoccurring theme of false images and manipulated photographic truth, also finds a stark poetry in "Redacted". During his Goddard phase, De Palma famously said "the camera lies at 24 frames per second" (in response to Goddard's claim that the camera records truth at 24 frames per second). None of his films portray this lie more clearly than "Redacted".

8/10- Entertaining, horrific, thought provoking, but a bit obvious and small scale. Works best as a companion piece to "Road to Guantanamo". It is important to look beyond the misguided "American soldier's are evil rapists" view of the film and see it for the larger metaphor the film represents, ie- "War rapes countries, but our image-lies tell us otherwise."

Worth one viewing.
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1/10
sometimes the "great ones" are way too full of themselves
skwjunk15 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Honest to God, this film came off as a war movie parody*. A dark one, certainly, but a parody, nonetheless. DePalma has made some masterful films, but this is not one of them. Apparently, he allowed his anger/indignation to overwhelm his ability to be self-critical in performing his craft. The script was absolutely blinkered (talk about lack of any nuance--every character was an overblown caricature), the dialog was horrible, the acting was atrocious...OK, I'll stop now.

The subject matter of Redacted is far too important to have received such a shallow, thoughtless treatment.

*For example, I actually caught myself laughing out loud to what should have been an emotional scene. When MSG Sweet chewed out Rush for his lack of discipline near the furniture, it felt like slapstick comedy. Oh, the irony: "be very vigilant near this furniture, because it wasn't here yesterday" (while kneeling 12 inches away from it), "we're all going to leave here in one piece" (followed by the flash dismemberment). Come on. Chevy Chase would have been a more appropriate actor for that scene.
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3/10
Boring Film Which Fails to Serve as Effective Anti-War Art
bobmcbroom25 May 2008
As an unapologetic critic of the war in Iraq I found this film a failure on many levels. First, it's slow moving and boring. Scenes are uniformly too long and almost predictable in length. Second, the characters are one-dimensional stereotypes which lack the nuanced portrayal of real people in turmoil. "Villains" are identifiable from the opening scenes and their motivations are presented through dialog which is jingoistic to the point of being laughable. We know from the beginning that alcohol, violence, racism, and ultra-nationalism will lead to brutality. Finally, and most importantly, it is so drenched in political bias as to render it useless as a criticism of the war; it allows conservatives to continue to paint the anti-war movement (especially those in Hollywood) as simple-minded. Casualties of War is a much better treatment of this theme. I wish De Palma had not tried to revisit this territory while the debate over the war was still in progress.
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1/10
Redact itself
Super61isdown2 December 2007
OK, it's easy for me to say I was against the war in Iraq and I do not support the occupation. I am, however, a full supporter of the troops and I thank them for their everyday service to our country.

Alright, on to the review. De Palma has, in my opinion, never been and never will be taken seriously as a "film" director. And if you don't believe, watch "Scarface". Yes, yes, we all quote the film's trademark lines, but could you call it a "serious" film? No! If anything, it's rather silly and over-the-top. However, it's easy to say that De Palma likes to tug at heart strings and make the viewer think for himself. However, I didn't after watching this movie. If anything, I was insulted and felt like somebody had slapped an hour and a half in my face. If anything, he likes to manipulate the viewer into thinking.

Before watching the film, I suggest the viewer finds out and rents (or just watches) De Palma's Vietnam flick, "Casualties of War". It's very much the same story as this, except it is set during Vietnam and the actors (Sean Penn, Michael J. Fox, etc.) are much better and find themselves in depth with their characters. The ones in this film, are not. De Palma is not original. He took the same story as "Casualties" and set it in Iraq, brushed up the characters and added some 21st century innovations to the mix (i.e. camcorders, YouTube videos, security cameras) Other than that, the characters are the same and the story is identical.

We are supposedly given a first hand account of a true story that happened in Iraq in mid 2006, where Army soldiers raped and murdered a 14-year old Iraqi girl and her family. We are shown from different perspectives of multiple documentaries, news footage and hand-held shot camcorders the events leading up and the aftermath. However, it just makes the film disoriented. I assume very little script was written, because the actors "improvise" their dialogue into making it look like "yeah, this is how actual soldiers communicate and correspond." I felt like I was watching a high school stage production of a improv showcase. The actors, if anything, are camera shy and they aren't believable. De Palma obviously doesn't know, and has never known, how REAL soldiers act and talk. One of the soldiers, named "Rush", is practically over 300 lbs, yet is a Specialist. Either the Army is cutting back on their weight requirements and health, or this was a poor casting choice. Another soldier was a bad stereotype of a racist southerner who proudly displays the confederate flag and calls Iraqis "Sand N*****s", yet he sounds like he's from California. This isn't Iraq...it's a Vietnam film, disguised as Iraq. Again, see "Casualties" I just couldn't follow the story well enough, because none of the characters are believable, nor likable, and that includes the supposed "good" soldier who's guilt eats him inside. Maybe it was the acting, maybe it was just because the script (or lack there of) was unmotivated. It's purely Anti-War, but it comes out looking more Anti-American and it makes the last anti-American film about Iraq, "Valley of the Wolves: Iraq" look like "Black Hawk Down". "Wolves", despite being somewhat hysterical with portraying Americans in a bad light, was somewhat entertaining in the sense that it was fictional and it never claims to be based on a true event, much like this one does. The final monologue given by the "good" soldier is laughable at best and so scripted it hurt to watch. Worse about it, the film ends in a disturbing montage that shows "actual" photos of victims from the war (although, one photo is clearly taken from one of the scenes in the movie) with the last shot supposedly a painting or something that shows the raped girl's burnt body.

I was angry after watching this and the funny thing about is that I have fairly liberal views, along with some conservative. Had I seen this at the film festival where I premiered, I would have booed it and thrown my box of milk duds at the screen (yes, they are delicious). Shame on you, De Palma, for trying to make think we don't everything about the war. What about you?
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1/10
"Deliverance" for the 21st Century
zandernat22 December 2007
In the spirit of "Deliverance," DePalma has chosen to propagate the worn-out stereotype of Southern or Appalachian Americans as murderous, violent thugs with absolutely no intelligence. The ACTUAL soldiers who committed this unforgivable crime in Samarra were NOT Southern nor Appalachian, yet DePalma has chosen to portray these criminals in their barracks in his film seated upon a version of the Confederate flag, with accents that fade in and out with more irregularity than Kevin Costner's Medieval British accent in Robin Hood. I don't suppose it would interest DePalma to learn that the Southern and Appalachian United States boast the patience and kindness of spirit that is more than touching, the friendship that extends across all races and religions and a populace that is BETTER read and more informed than his/her northern counterpart, on average. Why DePalma chose to perpetuate this ugly stereotype of the Southern or Appalachian American created by post-Civil War propaganda and perpetuated by Madison Avenue and Hollywood, is unimaginable. I was extremely disappointed in this film. Aside from slandering the Southern and Appalachian American, it is nearly plot-less and certainly fails to interest the audience. How this extremely important travesty could be made uninteresting is perhaps indicative of the actual talent of DePalma—to turn narrative into tripe. What could have at least been respectful to the victims instead uses their murder and rape to further the lowest form of falsehood concerning Appalachian and Southern Americans.
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1/10
A Thoroughly Disgusting and Dishonest Depiction of Troops.
croixlassie24 November 2007
I left halfway through the film. This kind of vile depiction of our troops just encourages the enemy to hate us and kill us all the more.

With this wasteful piece of lying film you have stabbed in the back the very soldiers who are risking life and limb this very minute to keep you safe.

You should be worse than ashamed, all of you who had anything to do with this piece of treasonous garbage.

Think about an NFL player making millions a year for playing ball. Then, think of our soldiers who have been keeping this great nation safe from the beginning. Why would you want to show these brave troops as rapists and murderers.

I met a soldier at a Vet Hospital, 23 years old. He had lost both legs, one arm, and his eyesight,taking all the fire to protect the men under him. They certainly don't get paid to be such heroes. They are some of the finest Americans we have,

How about putting out a movie, like the WW11 movies, showing what great people they are. You may get a couple bad apples in every barrel, but I think they are magnificent. They're helping the Iraqis stabilize, after years of tyranny, and they have dealt a tremendous blow to Al Quaida. even if you hardly ever hear about it in the news media or in Congress.
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2/10
Lack of Conviction
njmollo26 November 2007
Redacted is a poorly made film considering the importance of it's subject. From a purely technical aspect the film is sorely inadequate.

The acting is generally very weak. The worst scene being the interview of the bereaved father by an embedded journalist.

Amateurish Directorial technique and ill-conceived performances keep emerging through out the film, so that any sense of reality that might have been created is instantly shattered. There are some good moments but they are Kubrick inspired and in the first reel.

With this type of improvised work it really rests on the performances of the actors and so talent is of the highest importance. Unfortunately the cast are not up to the task and the blame for that can only rest at Brian De Palma's feet. A lack of conviction permeates the whole production.

The end of the film is a slideshow of real images of Iraqi victims. A credit states that the images are 'real' but De Palma brazenly introduces two stills into the mix that are obviously faux. Do we need the title and if so why contradict it?

Films that expose the injustice of the Iraqi invasion are of great import. This film somehow cheapens that suffering.
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A Powerful, Noble and Brave Film
thommickel9 November 2007
"Redacted" is a shattering, powerful experience. It has been criticized by some as painful to watch...but I think that is the point entirely.

For too long, Americans have been spoon-fed a steady diet of lies about the Iraq War (not least about why we invaded that nation in the first place).

De Palma aims to shows us another side to this terrible conflict; one that we won't get on Fox News (or any of the other corporate propaganda networks). It's about time Americans got another point of view on Iraq, because we're hopelessly misinformed about what's going on there (an astonishing number of Americans including a majority of Fox News viewers STILL believe to this day that Saddam was behind 9/11). My friends in Europe don't believe me when I tell them this.

Incidentally, I don't think a film has to be pleasant to watch to be a memorable cinema experience. For example, Fassbinder never made a "entertaining" film, and yet his movies are among the most powerful in all of cinema.

The Iraq War is a horror story of untold magnitude. This film aims to capture the nightmare of the ever-shifting, chaotic Iraq battlefield. It's a film that will be hated, in knee-jerk fashion, by the Bush worshiping nut-case right-wing fringe. But for the rest of us, it's a must-see, powerful and brave film.
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6/10
Scattershot
Chris Knipp26 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
De Palma's new picture about the rape and murder of a young Iraqi girl and slaughter of her family by American soldiers—based on a known incident—is a passionate screed. It's a collage of modern media showing what we do and don't see at home and thereby it seeks to frame this atrocity in a fuller context. First of all you get amateur videos by Salie Angel Salazar (Izzy Diaz), of the Marine squad in question. Salie didn't get into film school, he tells us, and now he hopes this video journal will get him in when he gets out. If he lives. Then you get an overblown French documentary ('Barrage') about a checkpoint (the meaning of 'barrage'), with ultra-closeups, ponderous editing, and elegant baroque background music. (If this is a parody it's inappropriate; if it's a homage, it's poorly executed.) The checkpoint is the one manned by Salie's squad. Later you get on the ground interviews and coverage by invented Arabic and American news media. Here and there you get more mechanical coverage (because literally filmed by machine): shots from a military surveillance camera; a piped-in line from a hidden Jihadi night-vision camera connected to a website called "Shuhada' ul-hurriyya" ('Martyrs of Freedom'); and hidden cameras used by the American authorities to record interviews of the men after their crime. Along the way you also get video blogs, one by a masked whistleblower and another by a disturbed relative back home in the USA.

The effect of all these electronic sources is a kind of surfeit of vérité modes. Sure, something like this is how we learned how Abu Ghraib looked (but only after the information was leaked and Seymour Hirsch wrote about it). And this is certainly one way of showing there are people who know stuff the mainstream media don't come close to telling us. (Of course we know that, though, and we know about the event this film is based on, from the 'New York Times.') However, some of the behavior and incidents as De Palma shoots them aren't believable. Some of the Iraqis don't look like Iraqis. (It seems part of the film was shot in Jordan. Obviously it wasn't shot in Iraq.) Salie's crude film-making gives De Palma license also to be crude. But the one thing that may be needed here is a coherent narrative. Instead, we get some bad and unconvincing acting and some overly pointed lines. Unlike 'Jarhead,' for instance, which was based on a soldier's firsthand (prose) account of Gulf War I, there's not much effort to convey down time or non-combat interests of the men. This is image overkill, not wisdom.

The unit is part of Alfa Company, stationed at Camp Carolina, Samara—or Mahmoudia, south of Baghdad. Soon you will see Master Sergeant Jim Sweet (Ty Jones), an experienced man, on his third tour, blown up by just the kind of hidden explosive device he's warning the others about. His sudden departure is to be lamented for more than one reason: because Sweet's is the wisest voice—but also because Jones is possibly the best actor of the lot. When Salie initially opens his camera, you meet Rush (Daniel Stewart Sherman) and the arrogant, cold-blooded Reno Flake (Patrick Carroll). Flake is new, and when he wastes a young pregnant woman at the checkpoint, he says it's as easy as picking off fish. Rush and Flake are later going to instigate the unauthorized raid on the house where the fifteen-year-old girl they want to rape lives with her family. Flake is the key figure, the spark that sets off the explosion of evil, and Flake and Rush are the rottenest apples in the barrel. This doesn't mean Flake's a convincing or well-drawn portrait. It's more logical and worthwhile to say soldiers become hardened during their tours--and then later, sometimes, fed up with what they've done, horrified. This movie gives us the good guys and the bad guys right away, and there aren't any gray areas, or changes of character. All the actors, except for Ty Jones, seem as green and unready for film work as their characters are inadequately trained to conduct themselves properly in a difficult combat situation.

After this incident, one of the squad is kidnapped and beheaded in revenge and here's yet another kind of modern video: an Islamic terrorist snuff film, which we get to watch. We've also gotten to hear, and partly see, the rape, because Salie has hidden a camera in his helmet for the event. When they first break into the house, suddenly an American TV newsperson appears in there with them. And Rush talks friendly to her. Somehow, that seems unlikely. De Palma's desire to work multi-media into everything is out of control. This film, which is overtly cobbled together, not surprisingly feels that way. A short sequence of stills of collateral damage victims at the end seems one more tacked-on thing. It's too short, or too long—-those who followed the war have seen plenty of such images, and those who haven't, would need to see many more than this to make up for the mainstream American media's avoidance of them.

This is a valiant effort by Mr. De Palma, who besides Hitchkockian genre flicks and shockers has a history of serious engaged film-making as well. But it's destined to be watched in the wrong way by the wrong people, and has nothing new or satisfying to offer for audiences sympathetic to De Palma's point of view.

Seen at the press screenings of the New York Film Festival, Lincoln Center, 2007; I think this is the first time De Palma has been included in a NYFF.
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