500 Days Of Film Reviews Restrepo And Finds A Remarkable, Insightful And Heartbreaking War Documentary Set In Afghanistan
Restrepo follows a US platoon into the Korengal Valley - a location that is considered to be one of the most dangerous places in Afghanistan.
Over the course of 15 months, the filmmakers, Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger (author of The Perfect Storm) lived with the unit and shadowed their every move. As a result, Restrepo features some truly extraordinary footage.
The soldiers are tasked with protecting the Korengal Valley against a barrage of attacks every day.
They manage to move further into ‘enemy’ territory and establish a new outpost. They call this outpost Restrepo after a popular member of their platoon (Juan ‘Doc’ Restrepo) who was killed at the beginning of their time in the Korengal.
Despite its location, the film itself isn’t concerned with the rights or wrongs of the Afghanistan war. On my DVD cover, Hetherington and Junger explain that their “intention was to capture the experience of combat, boredom and fear through the eyes of the soldiers themselves... Their experiences are important to understand, regardless of one’s political beliefs”.
Is It Any Good?
Restrepo is a truly incredible film. It is tough, tense and upsetting. However, it feels so important to watch. I was left shaken and heartbroken for all of the people involved.
For this is a film that is interested in humans and how they experience war. Each soldier comes across as a person - scared and brave, professional and frustrated, desperate and hopeful.
When they suffer loss they are told to mourn for a short time and then move on.
They are encouraged to use the anger that they feel following the deaths of their colleagues to fight back. You see the incredible high they feel when they do, but also wonder about the impact this will have on them when they return home.
Restrepo is a film that attacks your senses. You feel the danger and the dust of the valley and you also see how beautiful the location can be when the fighting stops.
The sound during the gun battles is breathtaking. The sound is real, the fighting is real - the loss is all too real.
I bought Restrepo on DVD and on the back cover it describes the film as being “as close as it gets to seeing what life as a soldier is really like”. I don’t know if that is true and I am just so thankful for that.
War is not a genre of film I generally go for - although I loved Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker. However, I am so glad that I watched Restrepo and I would watch it again. It is an astounding piece of journalism.
Tim Hetherington was killed in April 2011 during the siege of Misrata by Colonel Gaddafi’s forces. He was hit by shrapnel, which cut his femoral artery, and he bled out and died in the back of a truck en route to hospital. Sebastian Junger believes that his death could have been prevented had the journalists and rebels known what to do to prolong his life. As a result, Junger has created a medical programme for freelance journalists. For more information visit: http://www.risctraining.org/
I felt that, despite all their training, experience, weaponry and protective gear, all of the soldiers just looked really vulnerable.
I wondered throughout the film, how on earth these men are supposed to cope with what they have been through. They are encouraged to take move on but, for the soldiers, this feels disrespectful to those they have lost.
Here I am sitting on my sofa watching a film while they are risking their lives - this is another world.