Among the Intellectualoids

Redacted Ad Absurdum

Hollywood's antiwar message isn't selling.

By 12.2.07

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This fall, the Hollywood left once again cranked up its propaganda machine, flooding American theaters with anti-military, anti-Iraqi Freedom films in hopes of capitalizing on the perceived abysmal public opinion of the War on Terror, the Bush Administration, and the United States military.

The latest of these was Redacted, which opened in fifteen theaters on November 16. This grisly movie from Director Brian DePalma (a man whose career has been built on filling the silver screen with pornographic levels of violence) deals with the 2006 rape of an Iraqi girl, and murder of her family. The film is, in DePalma's own words, an attempt to "stop the war" in Iraq -- a goal he pursues by attempting to portray this depraved act by four soldiers as being representative of all people and all actions in that country.

"The movie is an attempt to bring the reality of what is happening in Iraq to the American people," said DePalma after he took home the Best Director award at the Venice film festival. "The pictures are what will stop the war....One only hopes that these images will get the public incensed enough to get their congressmen to vote against the war."

Unfortunately for DePalma and the rest of the Redacted crew, the film at this point has been seen by barely enough people to fill a high school football stadium -- not exactly the beginning of a massive, grassroots movement against the war in Iraq. In the two weeks since its release, the $5 million film has pulled in a whopping total of $1,709 per screen (reaching as high as 50th on the box office chart) -- meaning that just over 3,000 people in this nation of 300,000,000 have bothered to go see it. Further, among the minuscule number of people who have bothered, the response to the film has been overwhelmingly negative. Fifty-four percent of professional reviews of the movie were negative, according to RottenTomatoes.com, a website that compiles movie reviews. Further, 74% of amateur reviewers posting on the site found Redacted to be worthy of a four or lower rating out of ten (the average amateur rating for the film is currently 3.2 out of 10). "A Joe Strummer documentary [of punk-rock band The Clash] playing in fewer theaters made more in its third week," said the New York Post. "Not even people who presumably agree with the movie's antiwar thesis made the effort to see it."

The poor performance of Redacted and of the other anti-military films being put out by Hollywood this fall can most likely be chalked up to two main factors. First, people go to the theater for an enjoyable escape from reality, and to take their minds off of their real-life troubles. Films that echo (or embellish) the horrific scenes that make up a large part of the fare Americans are already treated to on evening news broadcasts do nothing to accomplish this. Second, it just may be possible that a far smaller percentage of Americans really opposes the War on Terror and the United States military than the fringe leftists in Hollywood think. Tough to believe, isn't it?

However, those behind the current rash of anti-military films are having trouble gaining traction even with their ideological brethren. MTV News -- as far left a media outlet as any on cable television -- found the film "talky, torpid, and borderline-hysterical." Longtime MTV News anchor Kurt Loder, writing on the cable station's website, had this to say about the movie:

What is there left to say about the Hollywood assumption that Americans are too clueless to realize that war is hell, that the war in Iraq is particularly troubling and that only moral instruction from, well, Hollywood can bring a benighted nation to its senses? Moviegoers have already signaled their disdain. Three recent antiwar pictures that reflect the film colony's imperious self-regard -- In the Valley of Elah, Rendition and Lions for Lambs -- have been quickly fitted with box-office body bags. Soon they'll be joined by Redacted....

According to DePalma, the gruesome images in the film -- which include a scene in which the throat of an American serviceman is slit and his head severed -- need to be put before the American people not only because they exemplify the common, everyday actions of the U.S. military, but also because "[t]he media is now really part of the corporate establishment," and therefore, without his heroic effort, no such stories will ever be made available to the public.
Writes Loder:
The movie's implication is that such horrific incidents are not unusual, but that they're covered up by the military and the craven mainstream media.…DePalma's use of an abominable crime as an emblem of U.S. conduct in Iraq is a gross insult to American soldiers who've never done such things -- which is to say, the overwhelming majority of them. But the director thinks he's courageously lobbing a truth-grenade into the cultural conflict over the Iraq war.

In his film-based rant about "the reality of what is happening" in a country he has never seen in his life (and most likely never will), DePalma does get one thing correct: the rape and quadruple-murder in question (which the guilty soldiers attempted to cover up by setting fire to the family's house) did, in fact, take place. However, the idea that such acts as this are the norm in Iraq, rather than the vast exception, belies not only a profound ignorance of actual events in that country and of the character of the typical serviceman or -woman, but also an intense, irrational loathing for one's own country, as well as for those who represent it and guard its security and way of life.

Further, those who are so quick to use such scandals and atrocities as evidence that the military tolerates -- or even encourages -- such behavior in its members completely miss the fact that every single individual who has been caught for such acts has been punished for them, in most cases very severely. From the Abu Ghraib perpetrators to the Pendleton Eight, those who commit atrocities in Iraq (and elsewhere) have routinely seen their actions met with lengthy jail terms.

Although DePalma conveniently left it out of his shock film, the five soldiers who were complicit in the gruesome rape and murder portrayed in Redacted are no different. Far from being a stock example of "the reality of what is happening in Iraq," the crime committed by those soldiers was so appalling to the same organization that the anti-military left wants to paint as being tolerant of such acts that the young man who simply served as the lookout for his fellow soldiers, while they committed the rape and murders inside the house in question, was sentenced to 110 years in prison by a military court. Another will be facing the death penalty.

That doesn't sound like an organization that accepts, encourages, or covers up such actions as those portrayed in DePalma's flop of a film. However, in the big picture, neither Brian DePalma nor his disgrace of a movie is of great importance. After all, for a film to matter to anybody outside of the Academy, somebody has to actually go see it -- something which, in the case of Redacted, very few people are in danger of doing.

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About the Author

Jeff Emanuel, a special operations military veteran, is a columnist, a combat journalist, and a director emeritus of conservative weblog RedState.com.