Posts Tagged ‘Redacted’


war-inc_lIn the last year a number of movies about the Iraq war have come and gone, barely making an impact with audiences. Well intentioned, but earnest movies like Lions for Lambs, Redacted and In the Valley of Elah were box office poison to a public inundated by images of the war on television. The latest film to comment on the war is a subversive new “what if” satire co-written by and starring John Cusack.

Partially inspired by Naomi Klein’s article Baghdad Year Zero, and set in the near future, War, Inc. is a vicious spoof set in the fictional desert country Turagistan. The war torn country is occupied by Tamerlane, a private corporation run by a former US Vice-President (Dan Aykroyd). Once they have completely decimated the place, he reasons, why would they then ignore the entrepreneurial opportunities that arise?

Cusack is Hauser, a hit man (he describes himself as “a morally twisted character from a Céline novel” or “like a reject from the Island of Dr. Moreau”) outsourced by Tamerlane to assassinate a Middle Eastern oil minister (Lyubomir Neikov) who wants to build a pipeline through the country thereby interfering with Tamerlane’s sole proprietorship of the land. Posing as a trade show producer, his cover involves setting up a televised party that will include a pop star’s wedding. Complicating matters are a Central Asian sexpot singer Yonica Babyyeah (Hillary Duff) and a snoopy reporter (Marisa Tomei).

War, Inc is kind of like the love-child of Wag the Dog and Grosse Pointe Blank. It’s darkly humorous, veering from slapstick to sincerity and back to satire with a side trip to soap opera land. The unevenness in tone may trouble viewers uncomfortable with sharp shifts in style, but adventurous viewers may find it exhilarating.

Some of the jokes are obvious—the tanks which patrol the Emerald City safe zone are festooned with advertisements à la Nascar—and some good sight gags are dampened by heavy handed direction—visual gags that are seen in wide shots are needlessly emphasized in close ups—but there is an anarchy to the film uncommon in the mainstream.

There is less and less satire on our screens these days because audiences have to work to get the deeper meaning of the piece and Hollywood doesn’t want people to have to think, they simply want them to buy tickets and popcorn. War, Inc, however, is food for thought. It is outrageous and not easily pigeonholed, but is very clear on where it stands on war profiteers, making interesting comments on the involvement of corporations in the wake of war. Are you listening Dick Cheney?

Showing maimed returning soldiers hasn’t been an effective tool for filmmakers to spark comment on the war, perhaps the jokes and satire of War, Inc. are what it will take to get people to finally respond to a movie that provocatively, but slyly comments on the current situation in the Middle East.

The found footage of missing protagonists In Focus by Richard Crouse METRO CANADA Published: August 31, 2011

apollo-18-8-007The most famous “found footage” film begins with the words, “In October of 1994, three student filmmakers disappeared into the woods of Burketville, Maryland while shooting a documentary. A year later their footage was found.”

Thus began the Blair Witch Project, a movie Roger Ebert called an “extraordinarily effective horror film.” He also called it a “celebration of rock bottom production values” for its rough hewn camera style and effective no-budget scares.

Those are trademarks of found footage-style movies. The premise is almost always the same: someone has recovered film left behind by, as Wikipedia says, “missing or dead protagonists,” and pieced it together to tell a (usually) horrifying story. This weekend, Apollo 18 uses (fictional) found footage from NASA’s abandoned Apollo 18 mission to reveal the reason the U.S. has never returned to the moon.

In the wake of Blair Witch, theatres were overflowing with found footage movies, partially because they’re cheap to make, and partially because audiences raised on reality television seemed to respond to them. Movies like The St. Francisville Experiment, The Last Horror Movie, September Tapes and The Curse tried, most unsuccessfully, to cash in on the box office bonanza of Blair Witch, but [Rec], a Spanish horror film about a haunted building was the most successful, artistically and financially. If you missed the Spanish version you can always check out the shot-for-shot remake, Quarantine, starring Dexter’s Jennifer Carpenter.

Less successful but interesting is Redacted, a Brian De Palma war film shot through the lens of one of his characters. De Palma came up with the idea when he was asked by HDNet Films to make a movie for $5 million on HD. In creating the story of U.S. soldiers on a revenge rampage after one of their friends is killed by an IED, he earned the ire of many conservative groups who called for boycotts of the film and producer, Dallas Maverick’s owner Mark Cuban.

If the Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity are the commercially successful of the genre and Redacted the most contentious, the most controversial must be Cannibal Holocaust. The 1980 fake cannibal found footage doc that was so convincing the director was arrested and charged with murder. Police believed several actors had been killed on screen but charges were dropped when the actors showed up at the trial, safe and sound.