Fans of Brian De Palma, the most unruly of the generation of '70s directors who became known as the 'Movie Brats', have always had a hard time defending their hero against his legions of detractors. With Redacted - an indictment of the Iraq war and its devastating effects on the civilian population, as well as the soldiers who find themselves trapped between the terrified innocent citizens and the insurgents determined to blow them up - he hasn't made their task any easier.
Based on a documented war-crime in which a group of American soldiers gang-raped and then murdered an Iraqi girl the the plot bears similarities to De Palma's Vietnam masterpiece Casualties Of War (it even shares a poster tagline: 'Truth Is The First Casualty Of War') but these the resemblance, sadly, ends. De Palma's 'big idea' is to piece together the story from assorted recreated 'sources'; so footage from a supposed French documentary, digital video shot by the soldiers themselves and You Tube-style anti-war internet rants are thrown together and the viewer left to piece together the events as they unfold.
"DE PALMA FLUFFS IT BADLY"
It's a clever idea - if Vietnam was a war fought on television then the Iraqi war is surely the first one to stream on the internet - but De Palma fluffs it badly. His decision to use amateur actors in concert with his limited skills as a screenwriter leaves them to frantically mug and shout their way through dialogue so clunky that would challenge a graduate of the Actors' Studio. And though the events are gruelingly (and graphically) recreated there's a typical lack of emotional connection which might be forgivable in a thriller but utterly hobbles this supposed cri de coeur. An almost total failure then, but a noble one.
Redacted is out in the UK on 14th March 2008.