Last Updated: November 19, 2007By Tags:

(BY ALI NADERZAD) The war on Iraq, and its subsequent occupation, has been reported on through corporate greed scandals, legal and political maneuvering and epic indictments in the pages of Rolling Stone magazine. Photographs about the conflict’s collateral damage, Iraqi civilians who die bloodily on the margins, have been withheld. In a bitter parting shot director Brian de Palma parades these heartrending images at the end of his latest film Redacted, out in theatres this weekend. But this film is not about Iraqi civilians, namely. It’s about a platoon of American soldiers stationed in Samarra, Iraq. And the morale is definitely rock-bottom amidst these men. In fact, De Palma makes us simmer with that idea awhile. Tense scenes of men hollering loudly about the higher-ups’ powers of persuasion (‘everyday they tell us, we’re going home tomorrow, and tomorrow it’s the same thing’) are interspersed with cutaways to teary-eyed wives on webcams. The effect is gut-wrenching. Suddenly, another reality of the war materializes: the frustration of separation, homesickness, cabin-fever. We discover that these men who are poised for combat bear a panoply of moral hues: Reno Flake is vindictive and sarcastic and his moral compass has gone kaput eons ago. While he was guarding a checkpoint the previous day, a car hurriedly weaved around the barricades prompting him to fire a volley of shots at it. After the vehicle rammed itself into a lamppost, the nauseating reality of a senseless mistake settles in: the driver was taking his pregnant sister to the hospital. He misinterpreted the soldiers flailing their arms as a sign to drive through. Reno Flake is clearly to blame but we’re left with enough leg room to consider the idea that the error was on the civilian’s part. That night in the barracks, private Angel Salazar (Izzy Diaz) the platoon’s self-appointed lensman, films his mates sprawled over cots, playing cards, reading books. Flake’s snide mug appears in the frame as Diaz probes him about the incident. ‘Does it make you feel any different to know that this woman was pregnant?” Flake is gauchely remorseless, his mouth contorted by cheap whisky. It’s meant to be nausea-inducing, but director De Palma doesn’t fall into the trap: he manages to evince a complexity out of our idea of morality. In fact, he’s manufactured a glossier variant of it, one where everybody can take the blame for the violence. What is powerful about Redacted is that the grandstanding antiwar activists and televised debates are non-existent inside these military barracks. It’s a scary premise but there it is: the entire Western civilization’s notion of what is noble rests on these mens’ shoulders. When a sergeant is blown up by an IED (highly lethal explosives), the decision to exact revenge is made quickly. Some of the planning for a nighttime spree of violence occurs outside near a loading dock; we’re shown the would-be perpetrators through a closed-circuit television. It’s gimmicky, of course, but it works—sort of. De Palma invites us to peer in closer and be a part of the conspiracy.Redacted’s vision of the war—unabated violence and adrenaline-driven free-for-alls—is a frightening one. But it makes for must-see movie-watching (3 STARS)

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