This film is one of the greatest documentaries that I've even watched. Despite the pandering and slow parts, I always wanted to continue, to see these young men fight for their country.
With no political agenda or bias, this film sets the precedent for how a war documentary should be made.
The story is Restrepo is about a group of young soldiers that are sent to an area of Afghanistan that is considered to be one of the worst zones in the war. The soldiers that were previously stationed there reported that every day they encountered fire fights, sometimes up to 7 times a day.
In the beginning of the movie, a short clip plays showing four of the men that the story mainly follows. One of these men is named Juan "Doc" Restrepo. In the early scenes of the movie, PFC Restrepo is killed in a fire fight.
The men have no time to grieve, since they are ordered shortly after his death to set up a new outpost approximately 700-800 meters from the main base in the valley. The men accomplish this under the cover of the night. Out of respect for their deceased friend, they name the new outpost O.P. Restrepo.
The rest of the film the film consists of the men goofing off, working out, or fighting. The fire fights in the movie are actually shot very well, and no extra emphasis is placed on the battles. The men are not over concerned with these fire fights and simply dismiss the enemy without to much riff raff.
Along with the fire fights, the soldiers must meet weekly with Afghani elders to ensure that they are pleased in order to aid the soldiers. These meetings actually lead to a funny part in the movie when the soldiers kill a cow (considered sacred by the elders and their followers) and must convince the elders that they had no choice but to kill the cow (see the credits for more).
The battles in the movie, as mentioned before, are actually considered tame by the soldiers. This is until operation "Rock Avalanche". "Rock Avalanche" is a walkthrough of the town (the safe haven of the Taliban). This operation provides the two most shocking moments when a soldier is describing being shot and also when another is killed. Hearing the men talk about the death of the soldier, who was considered to be one of the best in the group, is one of the most uneasy moments I've ever personally experienced. At this point is when it hit me that this is not some movie with actors, but REAL people dying. The fact that his death is caught on camera didn't make me want to cry, but I definitely rethought my position on the war.
Don't get me wrong though, while this movie has lots of fire fights, it isn't going to shy away from showing the audience the downtime between the fights. It's quite refreshing, and brings a human quality to the soldiers. At one point, before operation Rock Avalanche, a soldier is seen playing PSP versus another soldier. Another is listening to music from an iPod while others workout or sleep or play guitar. It gives the film a realistic quality that big movies (ex. The Hurt Locker) fail to depict.
My favorite is when three of the soldiers start playing a dance song then proceed to call soldiers into a small area, where they party boy them. These boyish acts are great and show how soldiers are real people too.
This is personally where the film really excels. The film has no narration, no music except what the soldiers themselves are listening too or playing on guitar. Even in an early part of the film, when driving to the main base in a Humvee, an IED explodes an the sound is cut out, and the audience is only left to watch as the soldiers attempt to make it to safety along with the camera crew.
This lack of narration means that no political bias gets in the way of what the film aims to accomplish. Its sole purpose is to show the hell that these men go through to keep our country safe.
And even though they could have shown just the fighting, they chose to show the downtime too, which actually accounts for half the films runtime. The only actual narration to the film is within a couple of interviews from some select soldiers. These interviews are slightly uncomfortable and during the death of the soldier during Rock Avalanche, are downright painstaking to watch these men choke up and be at a complete loss of words.
The people in the documentary are actually interesting to watch. Their struggle and their will power is an important part of the story. The main group of soldiers are very young and that shows in their actions. Despite that though, you will find yourself frequently feeling bad for the soldiers, as they are either in risk of being killed or in complete boredom.
The setting of the documentary feels genuine, which actual quite tricky in a film like this one. The film makers do an excellent job of making the warzones appear dangerous as hell and making the downtime feel boring as hell. Also, when the men are acting like little kids, getting into fights or what have you, they do an excellent job of capturing the happiness that is going on.
Restrepo is an amazingly well done documentary that is extremely compelling because it provides insight into the life of an deployed soldier and nothing else. No political remarks, agendas or statements, just pure unfiltered life.
Score: 5 / 5 stars
Status: Highly recommended for renting or even a purchase.
NB: This is just a quick statement. I think that everyone should go and see this movie to pay respects to Tim Hetherington who was unfortunately killed while filming a similar piece of work to this one in Libya. He was a great documentary and film maker who made a great impact on many people with Restrepo.
|People like Hetherington are why I will never seriously refer to myself as a "journalist." Doing so cheapens the kind of work that Hetherington and those like him do.|
|- Alex Navarro, Screened.com|