Redacted (Directors Suite) (2007)

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Released 18-Mar-2009

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category War Interviews-Crew-Director Brian De Palma (8.54)
Theatrical Trailer-(1.30)
Featurette-Interviews Refugees (61.42)
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-(5.01)
Gallery-Photo
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2007
Running Time 90:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Brian De Palma
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Sahar Alloul
Happy Anderson
Lara Atalla
Karima Attayeh
Francois Caillaud
Patrick Carroll
Andrew Cullen
Rob Devaney
Izzy Diaz
Mike Figueroa
Qazi Freihat
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles French Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Redacted, the word, is one of those buzz expressions that gained currency through the Gulf Wars and gained a life and meaning all its own. The simple meaning of the word is to edit a document to remove material for publication. The really modern meaning, however, is associated with the big black marks that appear throughout documents deemed too sensitive for release to the general public, particularly military documents.

Redacted, the film, is an intriguing attempt to look at the way media portrays modern warfare. Using the "people making a film" technique used in films like The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield, combined with a mock documentary by a French film crew and other "found" sources, director Brian De Palma asks us to look deeper at the way we view media reportage.

The film uses as its story the 2006 rape and murder of a young Iraqi girl by US forces stationed in Iraq. In the opening credits De Palma is at pains to point out that the story itself, as he tells it, is fictional. Yet the film has drawn the usual knee-jerk criticism that it posits a theory that all US servicemen are lawless thugs.Of course, the film does nothing of the kind.

Redacted is released on DVD as part of the Madman Entertainment Directors Suite series. This is, in itself, a controversial choice. Whilst there can be no doubt that De Palma has directed successful films and those which carry social resonance (perhaps for the wrong reasons, like Scarface) even his admirers would have to agree that his great films like The Untouchables, genre classic Carrie and Blow Out are dwarfed by his stinkers including The Bonfire of the Vanities, Snake Eyes and The Black Dahlia.

Directors Suite purists need not worry for Redacted, for all its controversy, is perhaps De Palma's most audacious and interesting film. Eschewing conventional narrative techniques the film obliquely follows a group of young men gradually drifting far from their collective sanity and losing sight of their moral compass. De Palma points out in the interview that accompanies the film that he made the film through anger at the fine young men sent off to battle yet abandoned in impossible circumstances. Unlike World War 2, where the enemy were the people in uniforms who pointed guns at you, the Gulf Wars have been fought largely against combatants who don't wear uniforms. This adds to the paranoia and informs the characters of the film.

The young men the subject of the film are assigned to guard a checkpoint at the fictitious town of Samara. The name Samara recalls the famous story, told by Somerset Maughan, and used as a dramatic underpin to the film. The story contains a kind of inevitability that death comes to all of us in the end and connot be dodged. For the men on the checkpoint the possibility of instant death, through suicide bomber or IED, is a constant sweat inducing stress.

Young private Salazar is making a film about his comrades, determined that it will get him into film school after the conflict ends. The clandestine nature of his film means that he constantly hides the camera so that we, the observers, are to treat his film as a found record. A French film crew is making a documentary at the time, observing the men as they monitor the checkpoint and go on raids.

After yet another uneventful time in the blazing sun two events conspire to drive the men to an act of unspeakable barbarism. When the tough-as-nails sergeant in charge of the men steps on the wrong piece of earth, leaving the men without a strong leader, and a routine incident at the checkpoint goes horribly wrong, all the anger and frustration of the men bubbles into a plan to rape a schoolgirl. Obviously, comparisons can be drawn between Redacted and Casualties of War, a film that examined a rape of a Vietnamese girl during the conflict in that country. Like that film, De Palma introduces a conscientious objector. However, Casualties was made years after the conflict and not "hot of the presses" where the offenders were still in the court system. He has drawn hot criticism for this aspect of the film as the scenes showing the senior brass intent on covering up the mess grate against the truth of the situation.

Still, Redacted is a thought provoking examination of the "spoils of war" mentality and the way that the media manipulates the images we see of a conflict. De Palma does this by using a multitude of sources including CCTV cameras, Youtube video, Arab television images and video records of interview. There is not a single frame in the movie that is "filmed" in the direct sense of the word. It works best upon reflection when the viewer can seperate average acting from deliberate average acting. The cast are all unknowns and there is perhaps the sense that the conceit overawes the effect of the film. The film has as its core weakness the problems inherent in the "found footage" sub-sub-genre. In an effort to make it all sound real the dialogue seems repetitive and uninspiring - simply improvised then filmed. It lacks logic and narrative rhythm and instead ends up sounding like real life. Real life and films should almost never meet.

Secondly, De Palma is nothing if not a supreme visualist ( see the Potemkin inspired steps scene in The Untouchables). Filming in the manner of a documentary takes away his chief gift, seen only in a few moments such as where the French crew films a car snaking slowly through section after section of the checkpoint.

The film, predicably, has stirred up a dust storm.The acting has come under fire as has the script. Conservative commentators have called for it to be banned as treason. The closing montage of dead Iraqi civilians, labelled "Collateral Damage" came in for its own version of redaction as the faces of the civilians were blacked out by the studio for "legal reasons". Check out the Youtube video of the encounter between De Palma and the studio man for some really interesting arguments.

Redacted has many weaknesses yet I would still recommend it to anyone with an interest in the Gulf War and the role of the media in conveying "the Truth" to the waiting masses.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Redacted was a project instituted by HDNet. It was filmed on High Definition video. The film was shown cinematically at a 1.85:1 ratio. It has been transferred to DVD at a 1.78:1 ratio and is anamorphically enhanced.

Does the film look good? Difficult question. Parts of it are intended to look good such as the scenes "shot" by the French documentary crew. There is a stylized but beautiful use of colour in these scenes. This contrasts with the look of the film in the scenes shot in the barracks which have that raw unfiltered look of digital video at its best , or worst, depending on your point of view. It contrasts starkly with the look of the scenes which use the CCTV look and the Youtube type excerpts.

All in all the film looks as it was supposed to look.

There is noise in the barracks and night vision scenes and the flesh tones vary according to the quality of the footage. Colours vary according to the scenes. There are no technical problems with the transfer other than those inherent in the "source" of the material.

The French scenes, spoken in English, are subtitled in French for effect. Other subtitles appear throughout in brief moments. Otherwise there are no actual subtitles to speak of.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Redacted has a Dolby Digital 5.1 Soundtrack running at 448Kb/s as well as a 2.0 track running at 224Kb/s.

Again the track is intended to convey the sounds that are "in the moment" and doesn't purport to be a deeply immersive surround encoded track. There are a few thuds and bangs which bring the sub-woofer to life but essentially this is immediate centre channel stuff. The lack of subtitles means that dialogue can be hard to hear although, again, that is probably the point and little is lost in the process. Occasionally some sounds really stand out such as the checkpoint Charlie repetitively flicking his lighter which forms something of a dramatic metronome to the ennui of life at the front.

There is not a lot of music on offer. The French documentary uses a Handel piece quite effectively although the jury is still out on whether De Palma is trying to show a "European" approach to the documentary or commenting critically on the pretentious approach to documentary filmmaking that sees the horrors of war conveyed in a palatable fashion for the liberals.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

There are a few interesting extras on this DVD.

Higher Definition: Interview with Brian De Palma (8.54)

In this short interview De Palma sets out his motives on the making of the film and his decision to use the "found" techniques. The war is available on the internet, he reasons.

Behind the Scenes (5.01)

This should probably be called "Behind the Scene" as it looks at only one scene from the film - the pivotal moment when the soldiers plan the rape. The actors get to goof around a bit but generally it is a bit short to be really informative.

Refugee Interviews (61.42)

This lengthy series of interviews is a candid insight into the lives of ordinary Iraqis. Their stories are both harrowing and familiar. Every conflict has its tide of innocent victims. There are lost parents, sons and families split apart. Gruelling but essential viewing.

Theatrical Trailer (1.30)

A subtle trailer which features only a moment from the film. The rest is dramatic captions. Subtlety wins out.

Photo Gallery

About 20 pics from the film and taken during shooting.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

   This DVD has been released in Region 1 and 2.

The Region 1 version has identical extras and qualities. The Region 2 skips the refugee interviews which are probably the best part. Go for the Region 4.

Summary

Redacted will divide more audiences that it will entrance. The film is deeply flawed yet also important and compelling. De Palma has made a bold stab at the narrative form that reflects upon our times more than a truckload of Schindlers Lists' and Saving Private Ryan's. As it is it joins the long list of "films no-one wants to see".

The video and sound transfer are a good reflection of the source material.

The extras are interesting although only the refugee interviews could be called indispensible.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Saturday, June 06, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer BDP-LX70A Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayPioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR605
SpeakersJBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer

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