Tuesday, February 26, 2008

De Palma Goes To War and Majorly Bombs

I admit that I only watched 15 minutes of Brian De Palma's Redacted with my full attention, eyes and ears. Now, my poor companion is watching it about 15 feet away, so only my ears are being subjected to the torture of this movie within a movie within a movie within a... ugh, you get the point. The premise is intriguing, I'll give De Palma that. Too bad he screwed it up.

American soldiers in Iraq record mini-movies of their daily lives there. I have a hard time believing every soldier would have a mini-DV cam, but whatever, I'll look past that. Instead of sticking just to the American POV, the film jumps around from one vantage point to another (the Vantage Point in theaters is undoubtedly infinitely better, even though I've heard it's awful). There's someone speaking French for some reason recording stuff about soldiers and checkpoints, there's webcams and video blogs, surveillance cameras (doesn't everyone have perfectly blocked conversations right in front of surveillance cameras all the time?), news footage, and the list goes on. What's unfortunate is that none of the new perspectives bring any more insight than the previous one. There's nothing insightful about this movie.

As I type, the grating dialogue is making my skin crawl. The script tries so hard to sound spontaneous that it comes off as even more painfully scripted. It's annoyingly self-conscious and pretentious. And beyond that, Redacted is totally unbelievable. Who records every second of the day? It's all too neat and convenient, despite efforts to make it seem haphazard, random, and revelatory. The only thing the film reveals is that the filmmaking itself is haphazard and messy, not the war.

Brian De Palma is best advised to stick to doing stuff he knows - ripping off other people's work and making inferior rehashes - rather than trying to do something new and profound. Nice try on Iraq. I applaud his effort and what (I think) he has to say, but he's in way over his head. He should leave serious topics to the real filmmakers.

Rating (of what I saw and heard): 1/2* (out of 5) - It only gets half a star at all for ambition and effort, even though De Palma was horribly misguided and the film fails miserably.

1 comment:

Bill Treadway said...

I'm a huge De Palma fan but Redacted was a colossal disaster. I didn't think he'd ever top Bonfire of the Vanities in the unwatchable dud department but he did.

It's just so amateurish. I know he was going for a documentary feel, but it felt as if he just set up a camera and said "I'm going to go take a nap. Do whatever you want."

The other problem is that he doesn't have anything new or interesting to say about the war. Nothing that we haven't heard or seen or read already.