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Director:Brian De Palma
Cast:Francois Caillaud, Rob Devaney, Mike Figueroa, Ty Jones, Ohad Knoller
Release Date:2007

By Lee Gardner | Posted 11/28/2007

The Iraq War is ugly enough without someone giving Brian De Palma money to make a film about it. But high-definition television network HDNet did, and De Palma wrote and directed Redacted, which is every bit as much a misbegotten disaster as the conflict it fictionalizes. No sooner have the opening scenes announced themselves as the video diary of Angel Salazar (Izzy Diaz), a U.S. Army grunt stationed in Iraq, than the camera executes a long zoom that's suspiciously smooth and steady for an amateur manning a home-video cam. Of course, Salazar keeps telling us in his narration that he wants to go to film school, so disbelief remains grudgingly suspended until he's back at base, shooting the shit with his identikit squad mates (sociopathic guy, weak-willed thuggish guy, guy with glasses who reads books instead of porn) when not-that-bright-but-decent guy (Rob Devaney) paraphrases Sen. Hiram Johnson's famous quip about the first casualty of war being the truth, and there it goes. The no-name cast keeps reciting De Palma's lines and De Palma keeps rolling film, but the conceit that these men might be mistaken for actual soldiers, these events for actual events, or that any of the footage in the film is anything but straight-up Hollywood evaporates. That's a shame, because De Palma is working with compelling material and an interesting conceit. Based on an incident in which American troops allegedly raped and murdered a teenage Iraqi girl, Redacted is ostensibly edited together from material shot by Salazar, a French documentary crew, a TV reporter, base security cams, and even insurgents themselves. The idea, one supposes, is to make manifest the shifting nature of truth in a war zone, whether it's who's terrorizing whom or the way atrocities are obscured by restricted press coverage, military omertà, and the overall fog of war. But the footage is all relatively clear and well-lit (HD, remember) and all too slick by half, whether hailing from a fictional film crew or an Islamist web site, a serious gaffe in an era when night vision and shoestring docs-and faux night vision and shoestring docs-are regular viewing fare. The result is visual bullshit, no help when the script is overheated bullshit to begin with.De Palma ends the film with a montage of real photographs of dead and maimed Iraqi civilians, their eyes blacked out in a final act of redaction. It makes clear the terrible stakes of the ongoing U.S. occupation of Iraq, as well as the opportunity lost in making a terrible film about it. ★

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