Redacted never made it to the cinemas here, and I wonder why, since it's presented mostly in the first-camera perspective in pseudo-documentary style which has always been popular with the horror genre at least, and has Brian De Palma at the helm, a director whom I always associate with making stylish films, from his impressive resume such as The Untouchables right up to The Black Dahlia.
With Casualties of War he had already done an anti-war film, albeit it came a little too late, some two centuries after the Vietnam War, to critique on. So it's no wonder that with the Iraqi War that's still ongoing, and with public sentiments quite bewildered against a needless war (wherefore art thou WMD?) he had come out to write and direct a film that deals directly with the atrocities of war, any war for that matter, that aims its sights squarely on how Truth is always the first casualty, because what comes out will almost always be a slew of cover ups to mask cock ups and accidents, intentional or otherwise, that will have negative impact on those currently or have been involved.
There are already a fair share of films both dramatic and action based that takes up this topic (the more recent one being Paul Greengrass' Green Zone), but De Palma's film is presented in a different fashion to put us, the audience, in the driving seat witnessing events as they unfold through cameras of various shapes, sizes and placed in different situations. With first person perspectives, it's usually through a single camera with an incredible battery life, but De Palma infuses common sensibilities in his film and involves multiple camera points of view to present a congruent narrative that's loosely based on the disgraceful Mahmudiyah atrocities as committed by the US military.
So we see the entire episode, and what we normally see from the daily news networks, all rolled into one tight and grippingly paced film, through the eyes of a wannabe filmmaker soldier, documentary filmmakers, press corps embedded in raids, Arab and Eurp press members on the ground and over their respective news networks, videos through insurgent websites, responses through viral videos, webcam chats, surveillance cameras and so on. It's a breathtaking number of cameras involved, each presenting something different brought to the flow of the film, and if there's one person who can pull it all off convincingly, it's De Palma of course. One can imagine how world events get told nowadays, no longer relying on a single source for information, or a handful of sources, but an entire plethora of platforms to choose from thanks to technology and social media such as Twitter and Facebook, bringing us much closer to events from a first person perspective, where the man on the ground telling his actual, real time experience can garner a world wide audience at the click of a button.
It's a powerful anti-war, or anti-Iraq-war for that matter, which follows a group of grunts whom we see performing their routine, rote duties of securing checkpoints and going through the tense checks they're tasked to perform, which keep everyone on the edge since Death can come knocking at any time should they slip up. De Palma doesn't sweep a lot of things under the carpet, and tells of how shootings become indiscriminate, of how cover ups are part and parcel of military reports and investigation outcomes, of the near certain circle of violence and revenge cycles each side get into. Definitely recommended material to sit through.
The Region 1 DVD by Magnolia Home Entertainment is presented in pristine anamorphic widescreen format as it was shot in HD, and audio is available in English 5.1 or 2.0 Dolby Digital, but this is not the typical war film that will max out your aural sense surround. Scene selection is over 20 chapters, and comes with English close captions and Spanish subtitles.
The disc autoplays with previews of films that for an uncanny reason (marketing and cutting of the trailers perhaps) I want to watch - Terror's Advocate (2:15), Outlaw (2:01), Flawless (2:08) and The Signal (1:29) before rounding off with an introduction to HDNet Movies (0:32).
Special Features on the disc include:
Higher Definition: Redacted Episode (8:53, letterbox) consists of an interview segment with writer-director Brian De Palma, who talks about parallels between this film and his earlier Casualties of War, where as he puts it, examines similarities where young boys get sent into a war with no clear purpose and cannot tell the enemy from friendlies, and just go berserk under an explosive situation. He also talks about his decision to use high definition, and the different formats adapted to tell the story, all coming from his researching the topic on the Internet.
Behind the Scenes (5:00, letterbox) consists of clips that's just that, centered mostly around the poker scene where the soldiers discuss their atrociously bold plan that formed the main incident in the narrative.
Refugee Interviews (61:37, letterbox) consists of a series of interviews with Iraqis displaced outside of their country, who have lost their loved ones during the war, and we listen in to their recount of confusion, frustration and the kind of treatment they get subjected to either in the hands of the US solders or insurgents from within. It's heart-wrenching stuff, where like the narrative of the film dwelled upon, we listen to and we see, but choose not to or cannot do anything about it, at least not directly.
Rounding off the Photo Gallery is a set of photographs consisting of 20 stills from the film and behind the scenes, but no, the powerful set of photograph montage at the end of the film is not included here.