Saturday, 1 September 2007

Venice: Redacted

One of a slew of Iraq/Afghanistan themed movies coming your way soon (Paul Haggis’s In The Valley Of Elah screens here too), Brian De Palma’s Redacted is a film of noble intentions but unsatisfactory execution. It’s also, very much, a Brian De Palma movie, in that it feels like a “movie” (which, in this case, is a problem)—although there are none of the director’s trademark Steadicam shots. Based on factual events, Redacted focuses on a squad of US soldiers charged with guarding a Iraqi checkpoint, two of whom rape and kill a 15-year-old Iraqi girl and then murder her younger sister and elderly grandfather before setting fire to them. Purported to be cut together from a variety of "sources" – the video diary of one Private Angel Salazar; an arty French documentary complete with Tosca on the soundtrack; Iraqi television reports; security camera footage; websites (including one in which a US soldier is beheaded); various Western news reports – the problem with Redacted is that most of it (the arty French stuff aside) looks fake; even the CCTV shots don’t look like CCTV, and very little of it—apart from the checkpoint sequences and a couple of scenes of grunts talking—feels authentic. The performances, too, with a few exceptions, come across as just that. Paul Greengrass (Bloody Sunday, United 93) and Michael Winterbottom (In This World, Road To Guantanamo) have shown how this stuff should and can be done, making films that blur the lines between documentary and drama to recreate a reality. De Palma has merely restaged one, and none too convincingly.

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