SAM SWEENEY AT NATIONAL REVIEW LOOKS AT "IRAQ WAR FILMS, 20 YEARS ON"
At National Review, Sam Sweeney includes Brian De Palma's Redacted in his look at "Iraq War Films, 20 Years On" -
Brian De Palma’s film based on the Mahmudiyah incident, in which American soldiers raped a 15-year-old girl and murdered her and her family in 2006, is unsettling to watch. It is the Iraq War we want to pretend didn’t exist. It is the dark underbelly of the war, in which policy-makers put soldiers in the middle of an unwinnable war, but where the war’s moral failings were not just at the top of the chain of command. It is a picture of ourselves that we don’t want to see. The film isn’t perfect and has plenty of shortcomings. Some criticized the film for not acknowledging that those responsible for the crimes were charged and convicted, but the point is not that the crimes were committed with impunity, but rather that they were committed at all. They need not be representative of the war in Iraq to be significant.
De Palma uses his film to explore both the nature of violence in war as well as the nature of media. Every scene in the film is viewed through some form of media present in the film itself. A soldier records his day-to-day interactions as part of a film project to help him get into film school. A French documentary crew makes a film about a checkpoint manned by U.S. soldiers. Local Arabic-language media covers violence perpetrated by the U.S. We watch events through security-camera footage, web chats, deposition videos, and terrorist propaganda videos uploaded online. The film is meant to feel like a documentary. The effect is heavy-handed at times, but almost 15 years later the saturation of media at every event, where people record the smallest thing on their cellphones, has become more pronounced. Is the camera a neutral observer? These questions go beyond just the Iraq War; just ask the kids at Covington Catholic.