It was at last year's TIFF that Brian De Palma was approached by the guys from HDNet, who made him their 'five million' offer -- we'll give you five million dollars to make any film you want. The film he decided to make was, surprisingly, one he's already made -- 1989's Casualties of War. Redacted tells the same story, of a company of Army grunts who take part -- some willingly, some reluctantly -- in the rape and murder of a young girl. The key difference is that De Palma adopts what I can only describe as a 'bloggy' style to film his movie, instead of using traditional dramatic techniques. We frequently get plot points delivered to us via suspiciously Youtube-like video screens, we watch video letters from the troops to their loved ones back home and vice versa, and most importantly, we see through a home video camera being used by one of the main characters, Angel Salazar (Izzy Diaz.) Salazar is a grunt who plans to attach his documentary war footage to his application for film school after he returns home.
Those who go to Redacted looking for the traditional quirks of De Palma will probably not be disappointed; in addition to the video screens that recall the director's obsession with split-screen, there are also several panoramic shots that echo earlier films like The Untouchables, with one in particular standing out. The camera is placed in the inside of an Iraqi car that is approaching a U.S. military checkpoint, more or less up against the windshield, and as it turns and swerves through the curves of the checkpoint, we see the increasingly agitated faces of the soldiers – agitated because this car is not stopping. All good stuff, but the film has other peculiarities that aren't so successful, such as a decision to add unnecessary subtitles to some sections, and to more or less dump the main narrative in the closing moments in favor of showing stills of dead Iraqis. Even though these stills are explicitly titled as being authentic, during a Q&A after a screening here at TIFF, one of the producers acknowledged that some of them were created by De Palma's team.