REVIEW: Restrepo

6 01 2011

We see the situation in Afghanistan all the time on the news, usually only to report that two soldiers have died or that we should just get out now.  It’s been a very impersonal experience for those of us on the homefront, a far cry away from the patriotic surges that struck America back in World War II or even the flag-flying defense after 9/11.

Restrepo,” on the other hand, changes all of that.  It puts a human face on the conflict in Afghanistan by reminding us that it’s not some sort of digital war like on “Call of Duty.”  It’s a real war fought by real people, and the movie probes into their deepest feelings and fears to produce a psychological profile of soldiers fighting in Afghanistan that is truly harrowing.

It’s not easy to follow on an event-by-event basis, and for those not familiar with military jargon, it might be a little bit like watching a foreign language film without subtitles.  But directors Sebastian Junger and Tim Hertherington make “Restrepo” a movie of emotions, not a movie of events.  The movie follows a platoon in the Korangal Valley, one of the most dangerous and volatile regions in Afghanistan, and the toll it takes on them physically and mentally.

The events are mildly exciting but they serve a purpose: to illuminate the interviews with the soldiers that survive.  What they say with their words, their faces, and even their silence makes the conflict in Afghanistan so undeniably real that it’s scary.  It could easily become a defining movie of American involvement in the Middle East, and it’s certainly much better to watch than any of the overly cynical fictional films trying to capture a zeitgeist.  “Restrepo” doesn’t have to capture that; the soldiers lived it.  B+


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