HELL ON EARTH: THE FALL OF SYRIA AND THE RISE OF ISIS (directors: Sebastian Junger/Nick Quested; screenwriter: Mark Monroe;  editor: Aaron Soffin; music: Joel Goodman; cast:  Peter Bergen, Michael Flynn, Sebastian Junger; Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Sebastian Junger/Nick Quested; National Geographic; 2017)

"Filled with the horrors of a war that is so sickening and brutal that it's hard to watch without grimacing."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

In this hard-boiled political documentary the American journalist (
“The Perfect Storm”) turned filmmaker Sebastian Junger ("The Last Patrol"/"Restrepo") and the celebrated British documentarian Nick Quested ("Dramatic Escape") have the connections to take us through the complexities of the war in Syria and Iraq by gaining access to the dangerous undercover organizations operating there as threats to the West. They chronicle Syria's fall and the rise of ISIS, and cover the human catastrophe by featuring interviews with top experts from around the world and use archival footage from such devices as smartphones to give us clips of brutal beheadings by the terrorists.

The film was shown on the
National Geographic Channel.

The co-directors stayed out of harm's way by having the likes of activists, terrorists and journalists film the violent action scenes. The most disturbing
footage, perhaps, was shot in 2012 by French terrorist Mohammed Merah, who killed seven people in three attacks and recorded the footage through a device on his motorcycle helmet. The first-person shooter POV shows him on his motorcycle at a stoplight where he meets another biker, an off-duty soldier from the local barracks. They pull into an empty parking lot, when Merah points a gun at him and orders him to the ground. The soldier’s refusal is met with a shot as the screen cuts to black.

It's that kind of film filled with the horrors of a war that is so sickening and brutal that it's hard to watch without grimacing.
The film tries to explain what’s happening in Syria, and how it affects the world. It does a nice job in outlining the continuous flawed United States policies and regrettably notes there might never have been a good policy to follow. Junger compares the chaotic situation to a bar fight, “where everyone jumps in and is throwing chairs at each other.”

REVIEWED ON 11/30/2017       GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"