Redaction in literature means "edit" or editing together several sources into one. The military use a lot of "objective" words like this, as war euphemisms. Rendition can mean for instance "kidnap and torture", and I'm sure were all familiar with "fri...(read more)...(read more)endly fire". All of the material in this film looks as if it was found on the internet, because supposedly De Palma found out about this story through the internet; blogs, youtube postings, Arab, and American sites.
The story if you haven't heard yet is about 4 American soldiers who rape a 15 year old girl, execute her family, and set her house on fire(based on true events). It's also the second film De Palma has made about US. soldiers in a foreign occupied country raping and killing a young girl and one deciding not to participate in his Vietnam film "Casualities Of War" . In Redacted 3 out of 4 soldiers remain to see what happens, one of them with a camera, observes, and eventually flees. Implicit however by his passive observation(like our gentle viewers back home).
I don't think the redundancy of watching the same true life event play out again and again in your own lifetime is lost on De Palma, the difference is that now anyone can view what's happening.
From the computer where I sit, I can watch videos of bombs being planted for US soldiers, be-headings, Arab TV cameras interrogating grieving families and dying citizens. If I really wanted to I could bring up a gallery of atrocities, but we don't because what would be the point, what are "we" gonna get out of it? I don't think De Palma is attempting to demonize the US military, but emphasize that as history shows, men with guns under tremendous stress can and will do horrible things, and if they are going to be put into this kind of wild situation...well, why? There are no diatribes about leaving Iraq, or reasons why the war is important, from a soldiers point of view these are irrelevant anyway, you follow orders as best you possibly can and that's that. But before the end of the film, the question of "why" it does manage to rear it's head.
The performances which everyone keeps commenting on as being so bad, we'll I think Roger Ebert made the best case for them, "The acting is curious. Some of it is convincing, and some of the rest is convincing in a different way: It convinces us that non-actors know they are being filmed and are acting and speaking slightly differently than they otherwise would. That makes some try to appear nicer, and other try to appear tougher or more menacing. That edge of inauthentic performance paradoxically increases the effect: Moments seem more real because they are not acted flawlessly." Anyone whose ever been under camera understands this anxiety and artifice.
That being said this is not an enjoyable film, I can appreciate it, but I did not enjoy it. We often go into war films, as this one points out, expecting action, justice, catharsis, excitement, and what Redacted gives us is tension, suffering, revenge, and confusion shot through prism both global and immediate. There is no "beauty" in this film, because there's nothing beautiful about this particular situation, nothing redeeming, because we so want redemption, we want to be told everything will be alright, worth it, just, and it may not be. This is not a film about why the war is bad, it just shows us one case of "horror" that has happened before and will happen again, and asks if this thing is going to happen, "why?". Two questions that American media has stopped asking itself, since exit and entrance strategy are no longer options relevant to debate.
It's heavy handed, and unabashed, we may be it's biggest weakness, but then again real people in real situations react and talk about things in direct ways, stories can be subtle, real life does not have to be, it can be messy, and obnoxious, and yes unpleasant, but it's still real.
Not a fun night at the movies, but a complex, and thought/argument provoking, emotionally draining film(the repetitive music as the soldiers stand at the checkpoint suggests at once immense heat, tension, and boredom, all ready to boil over at the same time).
Most war films are records, or hero/action myths wearing war clothes, some yes manage to be beautiful, profound, even endearing. Redacted is none of those things, it is an accusation, a question, it's the elephant in the room that everyone ignores being shot from multiple angels at multiple lenses. Not perfect, but impressive, and challenging in a time where a lot of questions aren't being asked anymore, and certainly not in ways that can be made emotionally compelling to the average person. I rented this cus I wanted a movie that would fight with me, rather than coddle me to sleep, and this did just that.