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Film One Star
Brian De Palma making a film about true and harrowing events in Iraq where a group of soldiers seemed to mirror some of the events of one of his own film, Casualties of War, with the rape of a girl and the murder of a family to cover it all up. That short write up alone had me interested, and when it was due to get a première at the Edinburgh International Film Festival I was hugely excited. However a power cut in the cinema resulted in the film not being shown at all and I had to wait.

Since then reviews of the film have been far from complimentary, but a brief squabble about the film itself being redcated worked the film into my mind as something that I had to get a hold of. Finally, with my LOVEFiLM membership, I took advantage of Redacted on Blu-ray and sat down expecting something hard hitting and in typical De Palma style.

Plot.pngRedacted.jpgRedacted is a film that creates a fictional story around actual events where a group of American soldiers in Iraq were accused of raping a girl, killing her and murdering her family to cover their tracks. Above that the film takes over and imagines a story around it, building it using handheld camera footage from the soldiers themselves, and even a security camera positioned outside the barracks where they would take their smoking breaks.

TheFilm.pngLet me start off by saying something good about the use of first person and hand-held cameras, and this is something I don't often say for the use of them in films tends to be forced to the point that it detrimentally affects characters and the story, usually pushing them beyond the lines of plausibility and making the film seem absurd and stupid. With Redacted this is something Brian De Palma has managed to really do well. There's never the feeling that it's too much out of character or that it's being forced upon the reality of the situation that the character finds themselves in.

Right, now that's the good stuff covered, let's start on the bad. Oh yes, that's about all of the good stuff that I've got to say about Redacted, actually that's not true there is more but for the most part Redacted was nothing as I had hoped or wanted from the film or the director.

Now don't start labelling this as something it's not, let's be clear here, the film isn't good. That statement has nothing to do with my feelings on the war or the events on which the film is based, it's entirely based on the fact that watching the film I did not enjoy it, I wasn't moved or engaged by it, and its message felt forced, biased and at times stock and two dimensional.

First up it looked cheap. The look and feel of the film is of a low budget, independent, poorly made film that doesn't feel like it was anywhere near the talents of Brian De Palma, and at times I was wondering how this film came to be and if De Palma really did have anything to do with the film.

The locations and sets didn't have me convinced for a second that we were in the location we were supposed to be, and it felt like the film was an amateur production, doing everything it could to hide the fact that it wasn't doing a good job of convincing the audience.

Then there were the characters, two dimensional and fitting every stereotype and caricature we've heard or seen of soldiers both abroad and on returning home. It really grated and there didn't feel to be anything real or new about it, or really that intelligent. To be honest for a film coming from a director like Brian De Palma I'm surprised it felt so flat and uninspiring, it didn't provoke much else than disappointment in the story, and an all too typical tiredness at someone screaming that troops and war are evil and they corrupt and destroy everything around them.

The story of the soldiers also felt hugely biased as though someone was forcing their point of view on the audience without offering them anything counterbalance, like a man on a soapbox screaming at the people watching him who are feeling more and more uncomfortable. It felt like the view we were being presented was that the soldiers were badly motivated, evil and the only ones that seemed to have a common shred of decency were cowards or messed up, it all seemed motivated by a different desire.

There are many times while I was watching the story and the characters where I found myself groaning or becoming frustrated at character decisions, decisions that seem at odds with the training of soldiers and with human beings. These rather odd character choices seem so at odds that they are just another factor that pushed me away from the film itself, and the film doesn't really need much assistance to do that.

So far it's just been a bad film with a skewed viewpoint preaching rather loudly at the audience. Then came the closing sequences, and it was here were I became upset and angry, upset at the images I saw and angry at the film-makers, something I would assume is not what they had in mind. I can only assume they wanted to make me angry at the loss of life and the war, but it makes me angry at the exploitative nature of these images which are tacked on the end of a bad film and do a terrible injustice to those shown in the images and their relatives.

It seems a deliberate attempt to anger and provoke the audience, something the rest of the film failed to do to any degree. I'm not entirely sure if one of these final images is of the actual girl from the events, but it certainly felt like that and I felt this was hugely degrading to her, her family and what she had been through. Quite frankly it disgusted me.

It felt a little like a last ditch attempt to provoke a reaction, and it did, but only one of shame and embarrassment to those who decided to use those images, trying to bring some weight and meaning to an otherwise lifeless and extremely poor film. If only the rest of the film had been able to provoke that reaction about the events rather than showing images of corpses, some mutilated, and perhaps even the girl at the heart of this story, then maybe I would have been feeling the right things and focussing them in the right direction.

Overall.pngAs much as I am a fan of Brian De Palma I have to express my utter disappointment at this film. There is nothing positive I can say about it other than the use of first person cameras didn't seem unnatural and forced, and everything else about the film seems poorly done, from the writing to the acting to the sets and the direction. It's a skewed, biased, preaching film that stinks of being overly one sided, then come the closing scenes which are exploitative, degrading and will make you recoil with anger at the film and those who made those decisions.

These seem like a last ditch attempt to try and provoke a feeling that not a single part of the film could even come close to, and all it does is cheapen the images themselves and the real people in them through their connection with the film.

They should have had a place in a far, far better made film than this with a much more balanced viewpoint however Redacted was not that film, not by a long shot. One thing you can say though, it is controversial.

UK IMDB Film Details
Buy or rent Redacted from LOVEFiLM



A one star review? Don't see many of them on Filmstalker.

...and from a great director too. No there aren't many on here, I tend to find something good to say about every film I watch, even when I think it's bad and there's always something good about it. Not so here, well there's one star worth of goodness!

Have you seen the film Mark? Fan of De Palma?

That's why I read the Filmstalker reviews, because it's not just mindless slagging of films. Very rare these days. Not the biggest De Palma fan in the world, but I might have a look.


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