Based on my brief post last night about Brian De Palma's new film REDACTED, I got an email from a reader who asked me:
"Nick - what about the film's broadway qualities is negative?"
Here was my response, as it sort of serves as a mini-review:
"I plan on elaborating further, but some of the performances, in tandem with some stilted dialogue (De Palma has always been a better director than writer), are very big and loud, like the actors were projecting to the back of a theater. Yelling instead of enunciating, going a bit over-the-top at times. The actors are either non-professionals or semi-professionals, and as a result, a few of the performances are less than convincing at times. Some of the sets seem small and stage-like. De Palma had a $5 million budget and it shows...shooting in Jordan probably cost most of that. It's an angry, vicious indictment of our media, first and foremost, and an anti-war Iraq indictment second. De Palma's point is that our government, along with our media, have subverted the true cost of this war, and the desensitized footage that we're fed on television is a less than accurate representation of what's going on over there. The violent content (an exploding soldier; the rape sequence; a beheading) is handled graphically (it has to be) but is never exploitive; the fact that REAL footage like this can easily be found on the internet is more disturbing than any Hollywood special effects. The simple fact that De Palma's own film has been redacted itself is a testament to the argument that he's making as a filmmaker. The last few minutes of the film is a montage of photos of dead Iraqi civilians (some children) and it's chilling, scary, beyond sad. But it also reminds you of how deceitful our government has been, and how lucky we are as people living in America that something like this is not a reality for us. But back to the film. It's quite good overall, but at times, you feel like you're watching a filmed play. Long takes, stationary cameras, paragraph-long monologues. It's similar to, but not as good, as Casualties of War, De Palma's Vietnam movie about the true-life rape/murder of a Vietnamese girl by a few soldiers, except that with Redacted, he pushes the visual scenario even further, with the movie taking the shape of a soldiers video diary, a French documentary, terrorist videos, website broadcasts, youtube clips, surveillance camera footage, etc. Formally bold ala Figgis in Timecode. There is a seething rage to much of the film, and again, some of the actors simply aren't talented enough to handle some of the more intense moments; you see them acting at times. Maybe that's the point, considering the way that De Palma crafted the film; if a documentary crew was following you around, would you maybe act up or become theatrical? Who knows. It's an intelligent film that is important and represents a return to form after the mess that was The Black Dhalia."