Brian De Palma's drama, a faux documentary about U.S. military misconduct in Iraq, sounds more interesting than it is.

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Through a collection of "acquired footage" -- from a French documentary, soldiers' personal cameras, security cameras, an Arab TV news team and Web sites -- we piece together what precipitated a terrible event: the rape and murder of an Iraqi teen-ager by U.S. soldiers, and its subsequent cover-up. De Palma, who also scripted, casts his condemnation wide with little subtlety; plenty will process Redacted as a smear against all U.S. troops. But the contrived style, the amateurish acting and the film's didactic tone combine to make the work feel like someone's first film -- emotionally overheated, too enamored of its visual gimmicks and loaded with sloganeering. (One character actually opines: "Truth is the first casualty of war," in case you missed any earlier hammer blows to the head.) Despite a pair of intentionally shocking scenes -- besides the rape, there's a beheading -- the film is tedious; we're stuck with a cast who are little more than yammering caricatures. Mostly I wondered: Why make a fake documentary about Iraq's messy state, rooted in such an extraordinary experience, only to present it in such a one-sided fashion? There's already a slew of well-done and provocative docs out there. And by front-loading his outrage in such an artificial, media-centric manner, De Palma falls prey to the very issue he's critiquing -- that our media is restricting what we see of Iraq in order to create monolithic opinion. In English, and some French, with subtitles. Starts Fri., Dec. 7. Squirrel Hill


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