When I sat down to watch Redacted I was expecting big things. Directed by Brian De Palma, who is known for such films as Scarface, Carrie, The Untouchables and Mission: Impossible. With these films in mind, I expected an excellent film.
Redacted is supposed to be a companion film to De Palma’s 1989 war drama, Casualties of War. I haven’t seen Casualties so have no idea how this rates compared to that, but I had heard good things about the 1989 dramatization of actual events.
As with Casulaties, Redacted is a fictional drama based loosely on an actual event. This time the event is a killing in Iraq known as the Mahmudiyah killings. The actual killings took place on March 12, 2006. The actual event saw a 14 year old girl gang raped in her home by a group soldiers after her family was murdered. After the rape, she was murdered as well.
The film fictionally approaches this central event and the lead up to it by employing different types of media. The film primarily utilizes the angle of a soldier creating a video diary of events in Iraq as he serves there. It also uses other mediums such as a documentary about U.S checkpoints in Iraq, internet video and official security footage. All of it is fictional, there is no real footage.
I think the concept is brilliant, looking at an event and everything leading up to that event by employing different types of modern media that currently do give us a lense into modern events. The means we employ to construct stories around events are vast and diverse. The film does well to capture that.
The film also does a good job of capturing the moral tensions at play and it raises some important questions. It forces us to ask how much of the brutality of the soldiers is a product of their context? Is it necessary for a soldier to be somewhat socially disruptive for their survival? How much of the insurgency in Iraq is a reaction to people feeling wronged by actions undertaken by the U.S military? How much of the “terrorism” is a reaction?Are events such as the central one in this film, the rape and killing, inevitable in such a context and if so, how justifiable is the context? What moral responsibility do bystanders have when their colleagues are engaging in brutality? How should a victim respond to a bully?
These are all very valuable questions and my hope is that anything who watches the film is able to walk away asking them.
Whilst I think the concept is brilliant and I value the questions raised, I have to admit to thinking the execution was poor and the acting, amatuer.
There were some convincing portrayals in the film, but it did not have the feel of soldiers in front of a home camera – it felt like amatuer actors trying to look like they were natural. It didn’t convince me. The “bad guys” were far too stereotypical and played their roles poorly – the oversized grunt with little between his ears who simply bullies his colleagues and is led around by animal instincts and the slightly more intelligent, but ultimately psychotic and skinnier yokle who feeds the bigger grunt all his ideas and whom the bigger grunt eagerly follows.
The more morally ambiguous characters were played poorly as well. Their frustrations felt acted.
There isn’t much more to say than that. A good concept with lots of good questions, but executed poorly. I expected more from Brian De Palma.
Reviewed by: Frank Ritchie.
Also reviewed by: Jonathan Read.
Rating: R16 – Violence, Offensive Language, Sex Scenes and Content That May Offend.
Release Date: December 4th, 2008
Length (Minutes): 90
Media Format: DVD
Director: De Palma, Brian
Studio: Directors Suite/Madman