Friday, November 16, 2007

New Republic Critic Smacks Down Redacted

When a center-left publication like the New Republic calls an anti-war movie an atrocity against our minds, you know that the movie must be mighty bad. Christopher Orr deconstructs Brian De Palma's entire oeuvre over the last two decades as he alternately belly-punches and dissects with a scalpel this ridiculous flick:
...the "found" footage gimmick, while perfectly adequate to conveying the rhythms of daily life, is almost uniquely unsuited to capturing the discussion and commission of war atrocities--activities that, as a general rule, people hesitate to perform on camera.

The entire second half of the film is a series of contrivances intended to get around this inconvenient fact. Easily the most preposterous is De Palma's having his camera-happy marine (Izzy Diaz) secretly film the rape and murder of the young girl with a tiny, helmet-mounted camera because he thinks the repulsive footage will help him get into film school. (Since, as we all know, USC holds open a few slots for self-documented war criminals.) But there are other contortions almost as ridiculous: The fat, bullying rapist ringleader (Daniel Stewart Sherman), who seems to go out of his way to make sure he's standing in front of a security camera every time he threatens to kill his squad-mates if they squeal on him; an unintentionally hilarious scene in which a soldier is filming himself on the street when a van pulls up and masked insurgents jump out and abduct him.

Worse, De Palma seems to think the spliced-together format releases him from such typical cinematic obligations as narrative continuity, character development, and aesthetic vision. Almost every scene in the latter part of the film is a self-contained, hyper-theatrical minidrama, an episode intended to express, as bluntly as possible, exactly one ideological data point: War turns men into monsters; the military brass coddles offenders and punishes whistleblowers; we all watch and do nothing.

Thanks to Redacted's clumsy, transparent politicking, the crime it portrays never feels remotely real, despite being closely based on an actual atrocity committed by American troops in Mahmudiyah in 2006. (De Palma evidently relocated the events in order to wedge in an awkward, pseudoliterary reference to John O'Hara's Appointment in Samarra.) Redacted is intended to be shocking, controversial, and, yes, offensive to some viewers. The surprise is that De Palma is now too inept even to offend.

Bill O'Reilly wants to have picketers outside the multiplexes, but if the picture is this bad, calling attention to it might get viewers who might otherwise not attend. This is about the fourth exercise in Hollyweird's putting out toxic anti-war garbage that viewers don't want to see.

Can't wait to see the bottom line these degenerates generate!!!!

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