Thursday, January 29, 2015

Restrepo (2010)

Directors: Tim Hetherington, Sebastian Junger
Features:  The Men of Battle Company 2nd of the 503rd Infantry Regiment 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team

A year with one platoon in the deadliest valley in Afghanistan during the war. It is set in the Korangal valley which borders with Pakistan and the body count was 50 for US there during the entire war. It was filmed by Tim Hetherington and Sevastian Junger who were working for Vanity Fair as embedded journalists during the war. The title comes from an outpost there which was named after a platoon medic who got killed earlier in the campaign.

It is a case of a documentary being more gripping than any feature film could be in depicting such a scenario. It is not just a case of us being stumped by all of  it being real but we are genuinely intrigued by the narrative and also  the plight of the soldiers as well as local people over there caught  up in a war. Embedded journalism can be always problematic since it gives us always what they want us to see/read. The documentary gets past this hurdle by not being political at all and just showing ground level things that happen during the war. It never comes across as heroic but people just trying to get by surviving the whole thing. There is no voice over narration and the low quality of footage adds to its realness. The climax is nothing heroic in the Hollywood sense but us being relieved along with them for getting the fuck out of there in one piece at the end of their deployment.

I have no idea how the journalists managed to get all of this in between as well as during the fighting. The platoon took enemy fire almost everyday, perhaps making it the longest exposure to combat any for US since the second world war. Tim Hetherington got killed during the Libyan civil war in 2011 and that shouldn't come as a surprise for those who've seen this documentary. I was not that enamored by Hurt Locker which felt like a propaganda film for US army. Restrepo coveys more without having to spell it out for you and the message that you get is definitely anti-war.

Rating: 4.5/5