Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
The rape and subsequent murders in "Redacted" actually happened, and we are told that director Brian De Palma found out about them on the Internet, in blogs and YouTube postings and on American and Arab sites. He fictionalizes the events, as he must for legal reasons, but presents them in a way suggesting how he found them; the movie looks cobbled together largely from found Web footage. It's better photographed than much similar material on the Web, and edited to create a relentless momentum, but he wants us to feel as if we're discovering this material for ourselves.
So we would be forced to, if the movie's buried message is clear. "Redacted" is a word simply meaning "edited" and is often used by the military as a way of calling a simple act by an objective, and therefore defused, name. In a similar fashion, a "rendition" can be a kidnapping and torture. The film explains the origin of much of its footage by introducing us to a soldier named Angel Salazar (Izzy Diaz), who carries a digital video camera and thinks maybe he can make a documentary to get him into film school. A good plan, but if you notice that the movie is set in Samarra, you may recall the parable of the man whose best-laid plans went wrong there.
The story comes down to this: The soldiers of Alfa Company are manning a checkpoint. A car speeds past. They open fire, and a pregnant woman and her unborn child are killed. Two more hearts and minds not won over. In retribution, one of the company's members is killed by local militia. In response, the two men who fired on the car (Rush, played by Daniel Stewart Sherman, and the well-named Flake, played by Patrick Carroll) lead a nighttime raid during which a 15-year-old girl is raped, her family is murdered and their house set afire. Company members are informed by Flake and Rush that if they don't keep quiet, they will die. There is no reason to doubt this.
Much of this action mirrors the events in an earlier De Palma film, "Casualties of War" (1989), in which Michael J. Fox played a Vietnam soldier who turned away from a rape. What is different in this film is the visual style, which informs us by its very nature that after the invention of the cheap video camera and the Internet, few actions can be assumed to be secret. De Palma uses the method to demonstrate how good (or neutral) soldiers can be turned into criminals or silent accomplices by a threat of violence from their comrades. How if you put men in a hellhole and arm them, and if they are predisposed to violence, they will not always follow the rules, or even remember them.