Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Redacted (2007)

Brian DePalma is consistent.

He left me scratching my head, and wishing I had a night of my life back, when I watched Raising Cain with John Lithgow and Lolita Davidovich in 1992. There was one saving grace. My connection with the student newspaper at Brock University meant I saw the film for free. For that, I give thanks.


Here I am, 20 years later, watching his Iraqi war film, Redacted. The first half of this 90-minute effort from 2007 works pretty well. There's a definite sense of tension as American soldiers man a checkpoint in Iraq. Redacted earns points here. There are signs in Arabic and English to stop. It's suggested about 50% of Iraqi people are illiterate. All kinds of signage won't help these folks, and as the film points out, plenty die even they few are insurgents.

The symbolism is none-too-subtle with an American soldier watching a scorpion getting taken down by a bunch of ants. Get it? The scorpion is the American war machine. The ants are ordinary Iraqis. The Wild Bunch featured a similar scene about 40 years before Redacted came along.


But Redacted goes way off the rails when its story starts to get into the real-life event that inspired its making -- the rape and murder of an Iraqi teenager by American soliders.

We know Angel Salazar (Izzy Diaz) is filming anything, and everything, for his efforts to get into film school when he's out of the army. But taking along a camera to film said sexual assault and murder? Angel must be dumber than a post to think his actions will merit acclaim stateside.

Is DePalma trying to make American soldiers not look too bad by having the culprits include Reno Flake (Patrick Carroll), who chose service in Iraq Rush is livid at the Iraqi people when an improvised explosive device kills Master Sgt. Sweet (Ty Jones), but it's stupid behaviour by American troops that sure helps lead to his death.


What makes Redacted interesting is the different ways the story is told - from the perspective of American soldiers, a French documentary crew, television crews from the area and Europe, Skype conversations and blog posts.

But even this unique approach to storytelling can save Redacted. It's bad.

Viewers be warned. There's a graphic beheading. A series of photographs of Iraqi war dead ends the film.

RATING: 4/10

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