Nine years after George W Bush proudly initiated Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, the news continues to be peppered with sobering images of young men and women killed in the line of action, serving their country.
This documentary brings home the shocking cost of war through the eyes of a company of young, energetic US soldiers as they venture into the notorious Korengal Valley in Afghanistan.
Films about Iraq and Afghanistan seldom do much at the box-office — but it would be a shame if Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger’s documentary winner of the Sundance Jury Prize failed to attract attention. It tells you more about war at grunt level than many a starrier project.
American journalist Junger, author of The Perfect Storm, and British photographer Hetherington used digital video cameras to record the Afghan war as experienced by a platoon of US troops holed up in the highly dangerous Korengal Valley. Faced by the Taliban, who knew the territory and the inhabitants better, they sustained considerable casualties in a tour of duty that was finally made meaningless when High Command decided it was better to withdraw. (So afterwards did the Taliban, who sustained even more casualties.)
The action — or lack of it — is interspersed with the soldiers’ testimonies, given back at their American base in Italy (they called the outpost Restrepo, after their popular medic who died early on). When they weren’t bored they were frightened, and when they weren’t frightened they were simply making the best they could of an impossible mission.
This is not a political film, nor a military critique, though when you see the men advancing on a village and finding many civilian casualties you begin to wonder what they think they are doing. You wonder, too, when they call a meeting with elders, telling them how much better life would be under American rather than Taliban tutelage, whether they or the elders actually believe it will come to pass. It’s not quite as exciting as the forthcoming Armadillo, a more controversial account of Danish troops stationed in Afghanistan, nor has it the realistic drama of Nick Broomfield’s coruscating Battle for Haditha. But it is still an example of responsible, entirely unclichéd cinematic reporting.
Restrepo – ReThink Review & Discussion
Everything I saw in the movie begged one question “why are we there?”
Nothing the soldiers did, no matter how brave.
Nothing they sacrificed including their lives did anything to defend American freedom or prevent a terrorist attack, which supposedly are the two main reasons for being there.