There have been a lot of movies and documentaries about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan lately. Plenty of very good ones like No End in Sight or The Hurt Locker. They tell the stories of how we got there or what happened once we did. None of them had the emotional impact that Restrepo brought to the table.
This is not a traditional war documentary. There are no interviews with generals or government officials. The only people who are talked to and filmed are the men in the Second Platoon, B Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment stationed in Korangal valley. The film follows them for one year in what is considered the most dangerous stations in the entire military.
Early on, a medic of theirs was killed. He was a man with a lively sense of humor and joy. In his honor they named an important outpost in his name: O.P. Restrepo. Their Captain is a courageous man named Dan Kearney. Kearney is a very inspiring soldier who believes he can bring down the violence in Kornagal valley, where being shot at is a daily event.
Kearney and his troops try to press forward and weed out the Taliban from the area while trying not to disrupt the locals. Every day they have to deal with the unseen terror. There is not one frame of the movie where they show the enemy, but it is always on everyone’s mind.
The personal interviews with these men are inspiring and heavily emotional. They are professionals and well trained, but that doesn’t mean they are ready for every aspect of what’s out there. Directors Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger don’t try to edit characters out of these men or put them in any sort of cliché. They are just observers and letting them tell the story.
The two directors are brave as the soldiers during this year. They are right in the middle of the action. There is not a scene from any movie this year that captures the intensity and fear portrayed when their unit is under fire. The movie is building up to a mission called Operation Rock Avalanche. How that is handled and edited together is truly one of the best achievements I’ve ever seen in a documentary.
By the end of this powerful experience, I’ve grown an even greater appreciation for the men and women who choose to do this. The film strays away from the greater politics of it all, but shows all of the moments and emotions not usually seen in these films. The scenes that stuck with me are not just the ones of suspense and turmoil, but the ones where I saw the soldiers try to give the locals penance for their cow or them talking about the loss of their sister squad.
I always respond to people who are very good at their jobs. Restrepo shows the men who accomplish the unbelievable in one of the most difficult places in the world. See this film.
Restrepo is playing at the Keystone Landmark and other select theatres across the country.