January 15th, 2009 DVD Reviews, Film, Xpress

Brian De Palma has had plenty of flops to his name, but he’s never boring. Straddling filmmaking styles, genres and budgets, he’s always up for something new and different and while plenty of his forays are commercial failures, history will judge him as a craftsman instead of a hack.

His latest cinematic experiment was actually a high profile failure, one of several Iraq war-themed films throughout 2008 that bombed with audiences and have steadily surfaced in Australia on DVD only. Hollywood wisdom teaches us that American audiences aren’t ready to see movies about wars until they’ve been over for at least five years, so Redacted joined Paul Haggis’ In the Valley of Elah and Gavin Hood’s Rendition on the scrapheap of failed movies.

A lot of movie fans will yawn and say ‘been there, done that’ when they see the premise of the movie. Like Blair Witch, Cloverfield and so many others, it’s all told from the point of view of camcorders and in-story camera footage. It tells the story of a terrible act in war-torn Iraq and the consequences that befall a platoon of American soldiers and the Iraqi family whose lives they shatter.

De Palma comes down strictly on the left, depicting the Americans as the aggressors. A misunderstanding at a checkpoint populated with trigger-finger US soldiers leads to a tragic mistake and the fallout keeps getting bigger and more terrible (especially thanks to two particularly brutal American thugs) as vengeance from both sides results in acts of even more shocking violence.

Despite the approach being already a little old hat, De Palma tells a good story with a good sense of cause and effect, and the construction of the story through video camera, jihadist websites clips and security camera footage is actually well put together.

It feels contemporary and with no big names you know Tom Cruise isn’t going to swing in to save the day. This is a realistic war going on in our time. It looks the way we see on TV and feels surprisingly awful, the tension building towards several shocking scenes that will stay with you for a long time.

For trivia hounds, Redacted had a strange twist of being redacted itself. At the behest of billionaire bankrollers Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner through their film company 2929, the ending photomontage of Iraqi civilians killed in the war were digitally doctored so they weren’t identifiable and families couldn’t sue, causing a major bitch-slap between De Palma and Cuban.

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