Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Restrepo: Movie Review

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Restrepo: Movie Review

Article excerpt

'Restrepo' offers frontline seats to Afghanistan's war, as Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington document a 15-month deployment of a U.S. platoon in the dangerous Korengal Valley.

Conventional wisdom has it that the reality of war is best captured

not by dramatic films but by documentaries. And yet documentary

filmmakers are just as likely to shape and refract their movies -

to push a vision, an agenda - as any of their dramatic


It's equally true that the dramatic truth of a fictional film can be

more revelatory than a documentary rendering. A straight-up newsreel

of the Normandy invasion may have the gravity of actuality, but

"Saving Private Ryan" puts you right inside the inferno.

I raise these issues because the justly acclaimed new documentary

"Restrepo" is being touted as more "real" than other war movies,

including many war documentaries, because it records, without any

apparent editorial intrusion, the 15-month deployment of a platoon of

American soldiers in Eastern Afghanistan's highly dangerous Korengal

Valley between May 2007 and July 2008.

Starting in 2007, Tim Hetherington, a veteran war-zone photographer,

and author Sebastian Junger, best known for "The Perfect Storm," made

a total of 10 trips to Korengal as embedded journalists on assignment

for ABC News and Vanity Fair. It was Junger's idea to follow a single

platoon for its entire deployment and then collaborate on a

documentary and write a book about the experience ("War").

The film's title comes from the name of a medic who was killed early

in the fighting, and whose name, in his honor, was used for the

platoon's mountain outpost. As the movie begins, we see home movies

of 20-year-old Pfc. Juan Restrepo good-naturedly roughhousing with

his fellow soldiers en route to Afghanistan, and the effect is

instantly heartbreaking.

There will be more deaths to come, and even though the filmmakers do

not show us the wounded and blasted, we see the aftereffects. …

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