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Director Brian De Palma revisits similar terrain that he covered in his 1989 film, 'Casualties of War', in this 'fictional documentary' loosely based on a real-life gang rape and multiple murder perpetrated by US soldiers in Iraq in 2006. Centred around a small army group stationed at a checkpoint in Iraq, the film alternates points of view, balancing the experiences of these inexperienced young men with those of the western media and local Iraqi people. Utilising an array of different filmic styles, from video diaries and surveillance footage, to produced documentaries and news coverage, De Palma forces the viewer to question how 'truth' is reported and asks difficult questions about the brutalising effects of war on all those involved.
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Both for politicial reasons (a crude and impressive attack to american perverse and violent occupation, with an attitude of domination and prevarication towards occupied people, instead of liberation), and because most expected another visionary and entertaining De Palma, while his vision (clear and very rational) here is all focused on the objectification of people, both soldiers and "enemies", who are just tools, things , parts of a fierce and brutal disrespect of dignity and mankind. And a vision that has no captivating style, because it is based on grainy, selfmade footage (obviously fictional, since it is not a documentary), in order for the look of the film to Give not just a realistic but mostly a raw sense of flatness, like they are filming an everyday scene and not a violent abuse. And the ending is pretty shocking and gives no hope to our western and mainstream expectations. This time, there is no justice, no peace, no solution
The bad: pace of the film could have been faster
There is no getting away from the fact that you will either watch this movie, and feel moved, or you will throw away the DVD in disgust. Mind you, you will do that on the basis of your preconceived notions about the role our/American soldiers played in Iraq, and whether these roles were justified. A film's aesthetic value cannot be separated from it's message, but in this film, the message is so overwhelming, so engulfing, that one finds it hard to separate emotions from objectivity.
The film is loosely based on a relatively lesser known incident that was dubbed '2006 Mahmudiyah killings'. A group of American soldiers, perhaps brutalised by the experience of war, went out and killed the family of a 14 year old girl, and then raped, killed and burnt her body. The crime takes a whole new dimension when one considers the setting: in the heartland of conservative Iraq, where a woman's 'honour' is intricately linked with the family and the wider society's reputation. And rape is the ultimate shaming of the family, society and the national pride.
The film is 86 minutes long, but one must have patience, as I found the film to be on the slow side. However, the cinematography is superb, the setting is authentic (it was filmed in Jordan), and the story telling arresting. If you are willing to watch the film with an open mind, who knows? it might change your views on life.
It's suprising to me that most reviewers seemed to hate, in fact loath 'Redacted' with venom and passion. All I'd say is that for me this is a bold, brave and evocative piece of cinema that needs to be watched. It might not be popular, it might not be action packed and it might not 'tow the line' in terms of the points it makes; but it certainly captivated me and made me have a good think about it's messages for some time afterwards.
Too many films don't 'say' anything and are instantly forgettable. Not 'Redacted'.
I say 'Well Done' to the creators for tackling the issues raised; in particular the 'why are we here anyway' undertones. I'm not pro or anti war, so don't think I have an agenda here. I'm just a regular guy who had a lump in the throat as the credits rolled. I can't say that for many films.
It's funny to see the divide on the reviews, one side give a 5/5 and the other 1/5. This makes me think that the pro war/right wing internet trolls have been leaving poor reviews deliberately.
This film has highlighted a whole body of evidence showing U.S misdemeanours and violence towards the indigenous populations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The events that lead to the rape of the 15year old girl and the killing of her family are just one of many crimes committed in Iraq and Afghanistan by U.S troops.
One only has to look to this weeks news to see more evidence of this, with US marines accused of 'Thrill Kills' and urinating on dead corpses Afghanistan.
As for the grainy handheld camcorder/YouTube footage many have complained about people have to take the recent war in context of the technology that was available to troops for the first time. US troops had access to the internet, they had handheld video recorders, mobile phones and cameras. And they could record live raw footage of combat, or in other cases macabre trophy photos of dead combatants and civilians and post these images online to video streaming sites. I think this film try's to convey the new way war could be documented.
Those who dismiss this film, do so at your peril. I think deep down it's because your ashamed of what atrocities have happened in your name and you cannot bear to look.
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