Restrepo (Tim Heatherington/Sebastian Junger) 2010

Restrepo is a documentary following a platoon through a fifteen month deployment in Afghanistan’s Korengal valley. This has been called the deadliest valley in Afghanistan. Restrepo is the name of the outpost the platoon created (named after a loved soldier who died early in the deployment) at one of the biggest Taliban hotspots.

What makes this documentary kind of special is the cameraman is in the trenches with the soldiers. We see how dangerous it is for these soldiers. A day doesn’t go by where they aren’t engaged in combat. The mountainous region makes movement difficult and easy to hide Taliban fighters. We see the dynamic of the platoon as they try to deal with this rough situation. One character we really get to know is Captain Keaney. He is a commander who tries to do his best to salvage basically a cluster of a situation. He is nice to his troops but works them hard to keep them sharp and alive. He is also given the extremely difficult task of trying to play ambassador to the local village elders. Commanders want him to win their support (because they mostly support and hide Taliban operatives) but it is almost useless. A humorous moment happens when he has to smooth over an incident with the elders which is called The Cow Incident. Kind of like The Hurt Locker this isn’t a documentary with any preachy message or theme. We see all the crap this platoon has to deal with on a daily basis.

Now the thing I love about this movie (the in the trenches cinematography) is also the thing I hate about it. Don’t get me wrong, some of the stuff in this movie is intense. For example, we are there in a humvee when an IED goes off disabling the vehicle and an ambush occurs. That kind of stuff was downright crazy. However, if you have any problems with shaky camera work, you will hate life itself. I usually don’t have a problem with shaky cam. I can see the Bourne movies for example with no problem But this movie is like a camera was placed on a paint shaker. There were many times when I simply could not watch and had to close my eyes for a few seconds to make the pain stop. After the movie, I had nausea like you wouldn’t believe. I understand you can’t have smooth camera work when you are getting shot at, but it still doesn’t make the viewing any easier.

Overall this is a very good documentary. The motion sickness is a huge problem and maybe home viewing may lessen the feeling. I just enjoyed the content and found some points very exciting. And at about 96 minutes, this movie doesn’t overstay its welcome. I would probably recommend this when it comes out on DVD for an easier viewing experience.

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