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By Jeff Beresford-Howe | November 18, 2007

The U.S. press continues in a near complete failure to depict in graphic terms the costs of the war in Iraq. You’d never know if you watch CNN, the nets or PBS – Fox is beyond the pale – that people are dying or being grotesquely injured at a rate about equal to Vietnam.
Brian De Palma apparently decided to remedy as much of this as possible in ninety minutes.

Most of the film takes place within a few feet of an automobile checkpoint at an unidentified town in Iraq. There, a group of Marines mistakenly shoot and kill a pregnant Iraqi woman. Someone in the town retaliates with a landmine which kills a Marine, and the Marines retaliate with a home invasion, during the course of which they rape a fourteen-year-old girl and murder her family. All of this is set forth by De Palma with unblinking attention to the physical reality of this kind of mayhem.

The checkpoint incidents are the heart of the movie, bluntly horrifying and heartbreaking, and De Palma’s ability to shoot these scenes puts him in the upper echelon of filmmakers who’ve ever considered war themes.

What keeps “Redacted” from being a classic is what frames the scenes at the checkpoint. The movie starts with excerpts from video diaries kept by the soldiers. They feel pat and inauthentic. The ending, a scene in an American bar in which one of the soldiers breaks down but still manages to make an anti-war speech, is much the same.

Still, I stayed in my seat for five minutes after “Redacted” ended, devastated. It’s a movie you should force yourself to see, as an American citizen because you’re morally obligated not to look away, or as a filmmaker because this is how you shoot war.

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