Reporters who embed themselves with the military are a special breed of daredevil, the paparazzi of death and discord. As Chris Hedges notes in War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, the book which provides the epigram for the Oscar-winning film The Hurt Locker, war can become a kind of drug, both for the soldiers and the men who follow them.
Restrepo, the Oscar-nominated documentary directed by American journalist Sebastian Junger and the late British photojournalist Tim Hetherington, plays on that theme with stunning lucidity. Junger and Hetherington both spent May 2007 to July 2008 embedded with the men of 2nd Platoon, Battle Company in the deadly Korengal Valley of northeast Afghanistan.
Restrepo is not a film about war—it is war. The moments captured on camera are only a fraction of all the conflict in the world, and just a snippet of America’s ongoing struggle, but for 93 minutes it is all that matters. The images are plain and unadorned—the shaky camera is not for effect; the loss of sound is not an aesthetic choice; the tracers streaking through the gathering dusk are not the addition of a post-production supervisor.
(This review is crossposted as part of The House Next Door’s coverage of the 2011 LA Film Fest.) A sunrise cutting through the haze overlooking a dusty cityscape, a gang of ragged street kids playing among crumbling buildings and burnt-out military vehicles: These are familiar establishing shots from any number of Afghanistan documentaries. (And Iraq films [...]