War drama

  • Written and directed by Brian De Palma

An American soldier in Iraq videos everything he sees. A French documentary shows how checkpoints work and why they don’t. A security camera captures thugs planning a violent crime and talking about it afterwards, seemingly unaware that everything they do and say is getting recorded. People post video messages on the Internet to communicate with loved ones or to make a statement.

Brian De Palma’s Iraq war “fictional documentary– never shows anything from the third person, fourth wall, omnipotent point of view we generally call “narrative cinema.” Every shot in Redacted comes from a camera that is part of the story. Like a 19th century epistolary novel, it offers multiple points of view while placing you firmly within the context of its time. A hundred years ago, everyone wrote letters; now they shoot video.

Redacted fictionalizes an incident that made headlines last year: the rape and murder of an Iraqi teenager, and the murder of her family, by American soldiers. As the points of view change, and as people randomly die, we see how the war brutalizes all involved, leading to inevitable disaster.

But De Palma doesn’t dig as deep as he should. The two soldiers who actually commit the atrocity are simply mean, violent, stupid men–rotten apples. By dismissing them as villains, De Palma misses the opportunity to explore how war turns men into monsters. And at times he seems just to intent on hitting you over the head with the horrors of war–as if anyone who sees this film doesn’t already agree that the whole enterprise very, very bad.

But overall, Redacted works–and works in an original way. It probably won’t change your opinion of the war, but it offers a terrifying grunt’s-eye-view of what’s going on.