Thursday, July 01, 2010
* * * * *
Dir. Tim Heatherington, Sebastian Junger
Restrepo is a classic war film, but also an important document: the film that perhaps best expresses the reality of fighting in Afghanistan: where Iraq had The War Tapes this is for Afghanistan. It follows the Second Platoon in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley, dubbed the deadliest place on earth. We encounter difficulties with the locals (a dispute over a cow is actually part of the narrative), difficulty in identifying the enemy, the long periods of down time, and when they come the suddenness and unpredictability of battle.
The film isn't really even about the war: it's about the group of guys, a family, who are trying to get through living in a harsh environment, fire fights, homesickness, frustration with local politics, and boredom. The film is named for one of these men, who we meet and is killed trying to take an outpost that eventually bares his name; the farthest outpost the US has in that part of Afghanistan.
The film is a nerve-wracking and fragmented experience, and formally what happens to create these feelings isn't exactly great for a film, but here, the imperfections in the narrative, and the recounting of things for which visuals do not exist, works even more in the favor of expressing the experience.
The film lets the soldiers and the images speak for themselves; nothing is devoid of politics, but this is a film without any agenda other than conveying to the audience that even something as unflinching and all-access as this film can't give you any idea of what its like to fight in this war or imagine the bonds made between these soldiers. In a way this is the anti-Platoon; a film that through its complexities and moral ambiguities, or in other words its humanity, makes all platitudes, on either side of the political spectrum seem misguided at best and exploitative at worst.