Redacted

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Posted November 15, 2007 in Film

“Don’t be expecting any Hollywood action flick,” warns Private Angel Salazar (Izzy Diaz), as the wanna-be director shoots the barrack-sweet-barrack home video he hopes will get him into film school once he gets back from Iraq. Mercurially-talented Brian De Palma’s war protest faux-documentary doesn’t channel Bruce Willis but Matt Drudge and the blogosphere screed. A fictionalized account of the 2006 Mahmudiyah killings, where four soldiers raped a 14-year-old girl, shot her and her family, and burned down their house, De Palma’s first interested in exploring the desert sweat tedium that would drive men to such madness. Guarding their checkpoint, even the kids playing soccer are suspects, or “Little Ali Baba midgets” as their Master Sergeant (Ty Jones) prefers. But then De Palma unchains himself from subtlety as his soldier thugs B.B. Rush and Reno Flake (Daniel Stewart Sherman and Patrick Carroll) bust out with hate speak that would make even my Confederate flag-waving Marine cousin blush. “There’s nothing like some sweet Hajji ass!” glows Rush, while Flake compares killing his first Iraqi—a pregnant woman—to “gutting a catfish” or “stomping cockroaches.” (Real racists know to couch their insults.) De Palma’s vision of grunts at war is such a cliché assault of ludicrous editorializing that for any independent minds in the audience, there’s the perverse kneejerk danger of thinking, “Oh come now, I’m sure these rapists and murderers weren’t all that bad.” De Palma’s made a shattering crime feel phony, but if you can suffer through the egregious classical score, symbolic shots of a scorpion torn apart by ants, and stilted insights like good guy Private McCoy’s (Rob Devaney) cigarette break ruminations that “Our band of brothers is losing their moral compass,” the film scores an emotional direct hit with an epilogue of picture after picture of Iraqi casualties, these real tragedies heartbreaking in their unstaged truth.


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