October 20, 2007

Redacted

Directed by Brian De Palma

Reviewed by Martin Tsai

Brian De Palma’s latest bid for relevance seems to be doing the trick. After all, it has all the trappings of a hell raiser, and not in a Carrie kind of way. Redacted lifts from the newspaper headlines and dramatizes events that surround U.S. troops raping a 15-year-old Iraqi girl and wiping out her entire family. De Palma has stumbled upon a truly topical subject in the current presidential race, and talking heads will soon buzz about the film like it’s Fahrenheit 9/11 all over while other button pushers like Lake of Fire and 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days might have to take a backseat. The director apparently fired the first shot at a now-infamous New York Film Festival press conference, in which he and Magnolia Pictures president Eamonn Bowles got into a heated spat over censorship of actual war photographs used in the film’s end title sequence.

The Fahrenheit 9/11 comparison is actually quite appropriate, since Redacted is in every way the same kind of angry, rambling, heavy-handed cinematic diatribe. A mockumentary except no one will be laughing, De Palma’s new film pieces together faux surveillance cameras, newscasts, documentaries, blogs, vlogs, and video diary entries shot during the tour of duty of Pvt. Angel Sakazar (Izzy Diaz).

De Palma’s filmmaking here is energetic and deliberately amateurish. It comes off like a meandering trip down the information superhighway in that few of the multiple narratives actually amount to anything. But his visual style is not nearly as crude as the way he not so subtly runs down his list of talking points. The film’s central event is devastating, but the director’s ulterior motives are a lot less pertinent. As much as it is a critique of the Iraq war, Redacted also simultaneously lashes out at multimedia conglomerates filtering information and at technology that allows everyone to pick up a camera, shoot and find an outlet for their “work.” He has a point, but perhaps that could have been another film – it already sounds better than The Untouchables: Capone Rising.

© Copyright 2007 Martin Tsai. All rights reserved.