Wow, this was a lot better than I thought it’d be. Why did nobody like it… because it was fakey or obvious? Aren’t all B. De P. films fakey and obvious? But they way he puts those fakey pieces together, and their very in-your-face obviousness (or audacity) make for compelling pictures. This seems like an angry, hastily-assembled statement against the war, but at least it is an angry statement against the war, and against injustice, and one which is interestingly different from anything else out there – attention-grabbing, appealingly watchable, and truthful even as it makes stuff up.
Firstly, it does not seem documentary-like, even when the camera work is handheld. Very purposeful movements, good framing, not pretending like this is Really Happening To Real People, and this style is a great success. It’s a nice blend of the Blair Witch / Diary of the Dead aesthetic with some actual professional photography. I guess after YouTube, studios think people want to see crappy handheld home-movies a la Cloverfield, but De Palma, in not making his camera work “realistic,” has made a fakey movie, but an improved one. Also by using this documentary approach, he has a built-in excuse to employ his signature long takes, a stylistic bit that nobody seems to be commenting on.
Angel Salazar unwittingly filming his own kidnapping:
At most half of the movie is this soldier’s handheld “doc” of his war experiences… the rest is made of leisurely intercut segments from similarly visually-enhanced sources: a French-made documentary on a checkpoint, a security camera, a legal video deposition, news footage, and websites with streaming video (!). It’s an interesting new way of incorporating the scary internet into a feature film… really just a website cut-and-pasted into the middle of the movie. The point being that each of these sources either progresses the story by giving us more information than a single source could provide, or gives us a new view or perspective on events we’ve seen.
Movie ends with “real” photos from the war, which have been censored by order of the cowardly film studio (HDNet/Magnolia)’s legal department, closes with a staged photo by B de P, I don’t know why exactly.
from the French doc:
BdP: “The US government has co-opted the Fourth Estate. It made the networks buy its spun, whitewashed version of the facts. The government has made sure there are no images that are too upsetting. We don’t see the soldiers being hurt or killed. And we don’t see Iraqi civilians being hurt or killed. I’ve been watching this incursion into the Middle East and, being a director, I naturally wonder: Why are they leaving certain things out, and where are they? Even in the case of my movie, where I tried to get these images in, I got redacted.”
A redacted photo:
I see nothing to complain about here. This movie shouldn’t have died like it did at the box office (I definitely would’ve gone if it hadn’t disappeared so quickly) and it shouldn’t be getting so many anti-American accusations by people who haven’t watched it. It’s specifically a film by an American about American troops killing the people they are supposed to protect, and that’s dangerous idealogical territory to be treading, so who we needed to tell the story was a filmmaker who walks hard like De Palma, who can’t (judging from an interview I just read) seem to tell when he’s being provocative or embellishing the truth, and who is well used to backlash. Not being an actual documentary, I didn’t find it as heartbreaking as The War Tapes (though they have similar endings), watched it with a more artistic remove, but from what little I’ve read in the media and Redacted-related articles and interviews, the story is real and is worth telling. Better to tell it now while it’s still happening (the soldiers were actually just acquitted, no surprise there) than to wait 60 years when it’s safe enough to make a Flags of Our Fathers prestige-pic out of it. It’s too bad the people who haven’t heard the story aren’t gonna see it here. Better luck next time, Mr. De Palma.
Angel’s helmet-mounted night-cam shoots conflicted compadre McCoy: