Published By: Matthew Kerwin
“The rush of battle is often a potent and lethal addiction, -for war is a drug.”
From the very start of the documentary we are introduced to a group of young men around 19-24 years of age. They are in what looks like some sort of vehicle headed for deployment. The first scene is homemade, shot POV style by one of the soldiers. It captures some of the guys bonding, laughing and joking with one another—most of all it shows us that soldiers aren’t the stereotypical “juice headed man with a machine gun”,–they are like you and I. They have personality and emotion- they could be your family, your friend, your neighbor. We see the exterior of the soldiers; they are like steel but throughout the documentary we find out the interior has cracks and can be fragile.
Filmmakers Tim Hetherington of “The Devil Comes on Horseback” fame and Sebastian Junger bring us this hauntingly beautiful footage in the form of “Restrepo”
These gentlemen followed and documented the soldiers of a U.S. platoon in the Korengal Valley for an entire year. I was sucked into the void of helplessness known as “The most dangerous place in the world” and I can only imagine how terrified all of the soldiers were when they were in the midst of battle because I was petrified watching 8,000 miles away.
The name Restrepo is taken from a fallen soldier of this particular platoon, Juan “Doc” Restrepo. He had charm, wit and charisma. He was likeable and everyone in the platoon had only great things to say about him. He was held in such a high regard that the platoon named an Out Post after him.
Platoons in the U.S. armed forces become more than partners they become family. This platoon is no different, each guy cares for the other like they were of the same blood.
Like Devil Comes on Horseback, Restrepo shows war at its ugliest, the soul at its darkest and the mind at its most unstable.
Some of the most poignant parts of the film were without dialogue; they were strictly headshot stills of individual soldiers. Eerie silences, scenic mountain shots and frantic gunfire captivated the film so poetically that I was left feeling numb and grew attached to the individuals that were being documented.
One scene that exemplifies this is also the hardiest to watch. [Spoiler]—————
The scene involves Staff Sergeant Rougel during the mission “Rock Avalanche” he is ambushed by a group of Taliban soldiers and is killed instantly. The camera captures the reaction of his fellow soldiers, they all have a deep fear in their eyes like they had just seen a ghost—watching this just sent shivers down my spine. One of the most powerful scenes I have ever seen in any film is the reaction of the soldier who broke down at the sight of Rougel’s lifeless body. This took my breath away and left me in tears, it was just gut wrenching.——————-Spoiler
What I liked most about this film is the guerilla style camera work with no narration or commentary from the film makers. It really helped enhance the quality of the film, showing the raw and long term effects war has on the human mind. This movie will stay with you, just like war haunts a soldier for the rest of his or her life.