DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
RESTREPO (directors: Tim Hetherington/Sebastian Junger; cinematographers: Tim Hetherington/Sebastian Junger; editor: Michael Levine; Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Tim Hetherington/Sebastian Junger; National Geographic Entertainment; 2010)

 
"It provides an admiring look at the brave soldiers eager to do the mission and return alive."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

In May, 2007, two embedded journalists, Sebastian Junger (wrote the book 'The Perfect Storm' and is now working on this story for Vanity Fair) and distinguished British war photographer Tim Hetherington (cinematographer on the Darfur genocide film), are both filming the Second Platoon of Battle Company, the U.S. soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade, in an outpost in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley. They film off and on all through the soldiers' 15-month deployment. One of the early causalities from the platoon is a 20-year-old Pfc. medic named Juan 'Doc' Restrepo. As a result of constantly being fired upon and not seeing who is doing the shooting, the platoon leader, Captain Kearney, has the men build a 15-man outpost (a sniper nest) in the most remote mountain spot from the main outpost to take the offensive and names this dangerous outpost Restrepo after the platoon medic who was killed in action.

The film makes no point about the war (which seems like a pointless one) except to give you an eyewitness report showing that war is hell and that the ideologies spouted from far away are not the reality of what is seen on the ground. The hand-held shaky camera caught the combat as good as any film has, with the soldiers pinned in the mountains and being fired upon by the Taliban at long range or at close range by the locals they hire for cheap wages. The captain explains the mission is necessary to keep the security while a road is being built in this isolated mountainous region that will boost the local economy, which sounds good except when the captain meets once a week with the primitive tribal elders who don't seem to care.

It provides an admiring look at the brave soldiers eager to do the mission and return alive, and showing them concerned about each other as if they were a close-knit family, handling combat in a highly professional way and fighting off the long stretches of boredom and primitive living conditions. I don't think you can come away from the film but be impressed with the soldiers putting their lives on the line and getting little thanks for it and, perhaps, scratching your head in wonder what the fight is about. The filmmakers have clearly shown that as much as the American soldiers are winning the the hearts of the locals, they're also losing them by not understanding local customs

The film's epilogue notes that fifty soldiers were killed in this outpost, and that it was abandoned in 2010.  

REVIEWED ON 10/10/2010       GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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