Sunday, 31 May 2009

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Redacted

Now, this film has caused quite a furore as of late for essentially being the first film to criticise the troops in Iraq. Controversy amuck, the film has essentially existed as an oddity, having only been released in fifteen cinemas in U.S, receiving poor financial returns and never actually having been released in cinemas over here. Also, ever since it caused the furore, it has more or less disappeared from existence, so you can perhaps imagine how suprised I was to find a copy for a reasonable price in the middle of WHSmith. The fact that Brian De Palma won a best director award at Venice Film Festival last year told me that perhaps this was a movie worth seeing, with reviews not really being worth paying attention to, seeing as how this was always going to divide critics. Well, to open this review, I'll just say that the movie is not as bad as some critics would like to think, but also, in saying that, it isn't as good as some critics would like to believe either. At least that's my opinion. As mentioned, it was always going to divide critics. The premise/concept that De Palma uses is very like that of Cloverfield, in that a video diary is used to make an account of the happenings of a group of troops in the Iraq War. However, De Palma is certainly deserving of that reward, because inevitably it is him and his use of this technique, among others such as internet videos and security tapes, that help make him the star of his own film. It is certainly fantastically edited and shot, creating a great sense of atmosphere which makes for some very tense situations in the film. There are some moments in the film which are genuinely shocking and remind that inevitably, that you certainly have to keep your eyes and ears open constantly. The use of these unique techniques in film help to elevate the films past moments which may well have just entered the realm of cliche if it was a bog-standard film. Also, the cinematography mixed in with the editing are also very helpful, with specific scenes getting lit and edited in a specific manner, for example, footage from a faux documentary has a more glossy look to it, whereas the video diary and news reels have an edgy, gritty realism. The balancing of these elements is something which the film-makers certainly deserve to be commended for. However, this film may well be a great technical achievement, but it certainly isn't the shocking revelation on the war in Iraq that I was expecting. For example, the film has been greatly criticised for it's portrayal of the soliders in such a negative manner. Personally, I would be tended to agree with this arguement. I mean, don't get me wrong, I hate the war in Iraq and will criticise it to the end, but the fact of the matter is that De Palma's soldiers are consistently viewed in a negative manner to point where you are like "Yep, we get your pint" and you end up getting bored. I mean, I was genuinely shocked in certain scenes, but after bombardment, bombardment, bombardment, it loses it's impact. This is why I hate propaganda films, I mean, this may well go in the same category under the guise of a postmodern art-house film. For example, Sergei Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky and The Battleship Potemkin are so pro-Russian and anti-everything else that it makes the makes the speech in Independance Day look like the President's on trial for genocide. The only reason these films are watchable is because they are great technical achievements, like this film. Well, Potemkin elevates itself to a degree, but you get what I mean. Also, to tie in with the negative portrayal of the soldiers, the characters themselves are weak and poorly developed. This is the case with many propaganda films. In this case, the characters are either fat butchers who eat candy off the ground or big cry-babys. This is no real spoiler because no doubt it will still shock you, but the only character who seems in the least intriguing is blown up before the halfway point in the film. That it happens like that is commendable, a truly shocking moment, but it also eliminates the best character in the film. They are all poorly developed, and you never really get to care about them whatsoever. I mean, it has potential, but they are all poorly developed boring characters. Perhaps the best anti-war movie, which I guess is in a way a propaganda film, is Platoon. I absolutely love Platoon, and the reason why it was all the more shocking and heartbreaking was because there were characters on both sides of the spectrum, good and bad U.S soldiers, who were well developed, and would die like that. Because this was so unexpected and happening to men you believed could exist helped elevate it out of that propaganda realm. In a propaganda film, every character is an exaggeration of real people, and are very two-dimensional characters, unlike real human beings. Although I am reluctant to categorise it as a propaganda film, it is essentially just that. However, do not take this as to say that this is a bad film, for I did enjoy it very much. It is a well directed film with some fantastic editing which will perhaps get acknowledgement at my year-end awards next month. As mentioned earlier though, the film is a technical achievement, and like any propaganda film, an attempt to lull to a cause through style while leaving out the substance that makes a great film such as Platoon. The statements that are attempted to be made in Redacted have been done before and in better films. On my lasting comment, after a recent turn for the worst in his career, De Palma could start anew as North Korea's director-for-hire in propaganda film-making.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 5.5/10

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