Movie of the Day – Restrepo
November 9, 2011 2 Comments
I wondered if I would ever decide to pick this as a movie post one day. Ever since I have seen the documentary, it has been this grim and stark reminder of this on going war. While I can sit on the sidelines like most Americans and critique the war from the safety of an arm chair and thousands of miles between me and mortar fire, it doesn’t seem fair to really just push this aside. I don’t know too many people that are in the military. It’s not that I avoid militaristic folks, but rather just never been in the situation in which I would personally interact with an officer. I only personally know of my friend Heather’s husband Luke, who has sometimes told me about things he has experienced while deployed. I can’t say that I feel his pain as it would be disingenuous to compare my civilian life with one who is serving. I try and listen and understand, but truly we don’t know what it’s like over there. We can watch all the news clips and talking points, but it doesn’t matter.
To me, being a person who watches every documentary that is available, every war movie and every facet of military presentation would be ready to watch a documentary that is about a group of soldiers in combat. While I can split the difference between reality and storytelling, seeing Restrepo is something a bit more daunting. It is about a group of soldiers, real people, being placed in a deadly location and we watch. We watch what becomes of them during a time of war. It’s real and it’s frightening.
Filmmakers Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington pay a visit to Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley to spend a year with the Second Platoon, a besieged squadron who dubbed their stronghold Outpost Restrepo in honor of their fallen comrade PFC Juan Restrepo. An al-Qaeda and Taliban stronghold, Korengal Valley sees some of the fiercest fighting in the War on Terror. At Outpost Restrepo, every shot fired is personal, and every target hit a gift to a fallen friend. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi
It’s interesting when we watch the nightly news or the 24 hour new cycles and the talk of war is not humanizing. We don’t get to hear what the soldiers have to say, we are kept at a distance from something that we can connect to. We would internalize what we are seeing from first hand account, soldiers probably not even old enough to have a beer, talking about what they have seen or done. It would make it too personal for us. We need it to be personal though, we need to see what is happening and we need to have that in our face, whether we realize it or not. These aren’t faceless combatants, but people that are American citizens. They have loved ones, family, kids, friends and are productive members of society.
There was a great personal risk to bring us this documentary. Junger and Hetherington both put themselves into the thick of a 15 month deployment with the soldiers in the documentary. Firefights almost 3 or 4 times a day, getting shot at from 360 degrees, and dealing with the constant threat of death. But their struggles is only a fraction of what the soldiers go through. We follow a young squad in one of the most dangerous places in Afghanistan, starting out on a 15 month tour of duty. Brothers in combat, friends for life. Their experiences run the entire gamut of emotions, from the adrenaline pushed soldier trying to come down off the high of a fresh firefight and ones that are seized with terror, not only from combat but dealing with the loss of a member of their squad. It’s the stark reminder of combat and their struggles that essentially punch you in the chest. It’s put a face on those that give their lives for our freedom, but at a cost of losing a part of themselves in the valley.
This isn’t an easy documentary to watch, as war itself isn’t easy. Through the lens of a camera, we experience only a fraction of what the solider go through, but the message isn’t loss on us, at least I hope it’s not. I am not saying that when or if you watch this documentary that you will go out and protest or sign-up for the military out of some sense of honor. You should watch it because you want to know what is happening there. We don’t get opportunities to see a personal side of the war as our intake of news is censored or missing some parts. It’s doesn’t put a face to the combatants, only a vague set of facts and talking points. Hetherington and Junger both at great peril gives us something that is both haunting and real. They put themselves at risk and took it upon themselves to present the personal side of conflict, in an almost real time presentation. Sure the soldiers retell and remember the time and their experience in the valley, but they way they talk about it, it’s like reliving it everyday. Each bullet, each battle and each member of their team still ingrained in their minds.
I don’t want this to be preachy or political in nature. The documentary is neither as it is a real look at war and that makes its impact so much more than just a documentary. It makes you appreciate what you have and those who do this everyday. It’s brutal, emotional, frightening and uplifting.