Brian De Palma’s Redacted certainly sounds intriguing. De Palma creates an Iraq war drama by filtering the conflict through close to a dozen media formats — a soldier’s camcorder war diary; a French documentary about U.S. checkpoints; a jihadist website; surveillance-camera footage; a U.S. Army wife’s blog; and so on. The intent is to offer not just an image of the war but a vision of the technology — and morality — of seeing (and a look at what we haven’t been allowed to see). So why is Redacted such an excruciating experience? Because what happens within those formats is too fake to believe. The soldiers don’t sound like soldiers; they sound like the cast of Rent acting like roughnecks, complete with cringingly false badass dialogue (”You’re so goddamn white you wouldn’t wear yourself after Labor Day!”).
De Palma then gets to his central outrage: a rape and murder, supposedly based on a real incident from 2006. We can tell he’s recycling his contrived Vietnam film, Casualties of War, because once again the violation of a pretty teenager is instigated as an act of vengeance by a clean-cut, dead-eyed hipster lout right out of central casting. In an odd way, though, De Palma trivializes wartime atrocity by reducing it to the level of a sick hothead getting his payback. The real ugliness of war is that it’s the ”normal” guys who snap too. For all of De Palma’s studious multimedia trickery — a valid, even inspired idea — Redacted is so naive it’s an embarrassment. D+