Indiefest invited me to a special sneak preview of Brian De Palma's new anti-war film, "Redacted". Although this seems to be the season of anti-war films, this is actually the first I've seen. I missed "In the Valley of Elah", and haven't seen "Rendition" yet. "Lions for Lambs" comes out Friday, and I'll try to see it eventually. So this is the first, and my guess, without having seen any others, it will be the most controversial.
It's based on an incident in which a squad of American soldiers raped a 15 year old girl in Samarra and murdered her family. The crime was later covered up in the official US Army investigation (hence the title). It's told in a series of video journals, employing a range of styles from security cameras to home movies to news reports to a French documentary to videos posted on the web. This accomplishes a duel purpose--first to emphasize how important non-traditional sources are for uncovering the truth, second it let's De Palma play with different styles. And that's somewhat to the film's detriment. Especially early on, before it gets gross, it is a little too playful. More importantly, De Palma has such a strong visual eye that he's incapable of letting the amateur footage look amateur. Even the security camera footage is well framed and has clear audio. I sorta feel like a less polished filmmaker could actually do a more convincing job with this concept.
However, that's a very minor, niggling point compared to the power of the film. It is raw, tense, and disturbing. And most importantly (and what I predict will make it the most controversial war picture this season) is that it does not portray our troops as heroes. Even the soldiers who oppose the crime are too weak to stop it. It even makes a joke about "supporting the troops" during the rape scene. And unless I'm mistaken, one of the soldiers had an Oscar with a miniature M-16 and helmet. Yeah, this isn't a subtle movie--one of the villains is a big fat dumbass named "Rush"--but fuck it, I liked it's unsubtle guts.