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Brian De Palma, Implicating Us All in 'Redacted'

Brian de Palma is one of cinema's most hypnotic stylists, a virtuoso who can expand your perception of space, time and motion onscreen.

So when he throws away his jazzy technique and goes for rough-hewn and immediate — as in Redacted — it's a major statement.

Redacted — De Palma's fictionalized restaging of the rape and murder of an Iraqi girl and the killing of her family by American soldiers — is in form a kind of furious charcoal sketch: an assemblage of fake documentary footage, much of it from soldiers' camcorders, with inserts of a French documentary (also fake) about the lives of Americans at a security checkpoint in Samarra.

Critics have called the movie crude and punishing. True enough. But it also does a harrowing job of depicting the psychological toll of the occupation on both Iraqis and U.S. soldiers. And despite the presence of two American sociopaths, this is not an unsympathetic portrait; in fact its best scene makes the audience understand the corrosiveness of living all the time with looming threat.

Copyright 2022 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

David Edelstein is a film critic for New York magazine and for NPR's Fresh Air, and an occasional commentator on film for CBS Sunday Morning. He has also written film criticism for the Village Voice, The New York Post, and Rolling Stone, and is a frequent contributor to the New York Times' Arts & Leisure section.