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Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Armond White at the New York Press begins his review of the new Iraq war-themed movie, The Messenger, by contrasting the acting style with that of Redacted:

Despite the many things wrong with Brian De Palma’s Redacted, the acting was superbly on-point. De Palma’s little-known cast got class differences right, even while the film’s rhetorical concept was slanting them into the typical Blue State condescension about working-class grunts. This bias infects the latest Iraq War movie, The Messenger, by writer-director Oren Moverman, who lacks De Palma’s instincts for actorly (human) truth. This story about two veterans (Ben Foster, Woody Harrelson) assigned MOS duty to deliver death notices to the deceased’s NOK (next-of-kin), is so bungled up with fashionable ambivalence about the Iraq War that every single behavioral detail is not just prejudicial but wrong.

Later in the review, White gives praise to the homecoming bar scene in Redacted, before reiterating his opinion that Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker is "now overrated":

For Moverman, Iraq soldiers are already dead. The Messenger is a requiem for zombies at board and overseas. Moverman isn’t skilled enough to convey complex grief like Redacted’s homecoming bar scene; he leaves his actors hanging with specious dialogue all over their faces. Full-bodied Morton has a needful, open gaze but there’s no believable sense of her character’s social reality—she’s playing a conceit. So is Foster, who is always prone to over-acting; Foster confuses making pass at Morton with showing desperation. Or is that Moverman’s confusion? Moverman can’t keep up with his actors’ misguided intensity; his camera roams over the scenes’ emotional values.

At least Kathryn Bigelow’s now-overrated Iraq War requiem, The Hurt Locker, was skillfully directed—noir tropes disguised as a war statement. Yet Bigelow’s skillful film let slip a similarly obnoxious suspicion of its characters—as in its “War is a Drug” conceit that, like The Messenger, critiques masculinity but fails to understand the depths of human commitment. It’s a sorry state when morally befuddled political tracts pass for drama.

Meanwhile, This Island Rod's Roderick Heath states that "Redacted almost succeeds in burning the war movie itself down to the ground, as it keeps the spirit of enquiring, experimental narrative as defined in '60s art alive and relevant." Heath feels the "cultural memory of Vietnam," along with De Palma's earlier films about that war, looming over Redacted. Heath further makes the distinction that in Redacted, De Palma is not concerned with reproducing reality, but instead, "turns realism into a mode of expression."

Posted by Geoff at 3:19 PM CST
Post Comment | View Comments (3) | Permalink | Share This Post

Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - 1:57 AM CST

Name: "Adam Zanzie"
Home Page: http://www.iceboxmovies.blogspot.com

I remember being very upset when I read White's review of Redacted, and it upsets me still to see that he won't recognize the film as more than just a whiny liberal Hollywood statement. It is much more.

However, I am pleased to see him voicing appreciation for the bar scene at the end of the film. I love that scene! You know how people are always complaining that many of De Palma's films have problematic endings? Redacted has one of the great ones.

I think the reason why I, personally, like the bar scene so much is because De Palma gives the McCoy character a chance to talk about Afghanistan. He tells his friends about how he was proud to fight over there because of 9/11, and this makes me wonder: do you think De Palma supports the War in Afghanistan? It's probably pointless to ask such questions, but if he does, that would certainly silence those claims by O'Reilly and Gary Sinise that De Palma is supposedly "anti-military" if he agrees with the United States retaliating in the aftermath of a terrible terrorist attack.

At the same time, the bar scene rightfully condemns the War in Iraq, and when McCoy expresses his frustration over "following orders" against people that never attacked the U.S.- and then admits his failure to save Farah from Rush and Flake- that gets me every time. White is absolutely correct when he points out that the grief in this scene is real.

 I also have to side with White on The Hurt Locker being overrated at this point; sure, Bigelow's direction is top-notch, but the film is more effective as an action thriller (or as a noir) than it is as a war film. What really irritates me about The Hurt Locker is simply the fact that it's such an apathetic film. It has no opinion on the war, and in these times- when many audiences are still oblivious to what is going on over in Iraq- that can be a dangerous point of view for a filmmaker to take. De Palma is wise enough to understand that one must take a side.

But back to the ending of Redacted. Rob Devaney's acting is tremendous in that scene. He does an even better job than Fox did in Casualties of War, I think. I would be really happy if De Palma and Devaney collaborated on another film again. Maybe De Palma's hope of directing another Iraq film will be made a reality?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - 2:01 PM CST

Name: "Geoff"
Home Page: http://www.briandepalma.org

I do vaguely recall an interview where De Palma seemed to echo the idea in his film that the war in Afghanistan was one thing, but Iraq was another-- meaning that he understood the drive to go after the cause of 9/11. I'm not 100% sure, but I do seem to recall De Palma expressing that idea somewhere.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009 - 6:47 AM CST

Name: "Roderick Heath"
Home Page: http://thisislandrod.blogspot.com/

I think this is the first time TIR's been linked anywhere. Thanks, guys.

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