In its opening moments, “Restrepo” looks like every other documentary about America’s ongoing wars.
The footage, captured by first-time director Tim Hetherington and author Sebastian Junger, borders on banal – until the Humvee carrying the soldiers and the cameraman drives over an improvised explosive device (IED).
That jagged spike of adrenaline reoccurs throughout “Restrepo,” which documents a year in the life of Battle Company’s Second Platoon.
The men were stationed, from mid-2007 to mid-2008, in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley, a remote, ruthless piece of land situated amid mountains that reach more than 10,000 feet above sea level.
The film takes its name from the outpost the soldiers establish in the Korengal, named in honor of their fallen comrade, Pfc. Juan Restrepo (who’s glimpsed briefly).
Culled from roughly 150 hours of footage and interviews conducted with the soldiers three months after their deployment ended, “Restrepo” paints an unsparing, apolitical portrait of men at war.
The boredom, the fear, the brutality, the camaraderie, the psychological and emotional impact of combat – all are deftly captured by Hetherington and Junger’s unobtrusive cameras.
“Restrepo” offers a boots-on-the-ground perspective of what the war on terror looks and feels like, a particularly valuable insight in an era of cable news bloviation.
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