94 minutes

There is little genuinely new or unusual about veteran war correspondents Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington's look at a year-long tour of duty of American soldiers in the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan. Restrepo is essentially a standard immersive, observational documentary that takes in a US Army company during firefights and downtime, without any commentary or voiceover. 
     Its relevance and power come, first, from messrs. Hetherington and Junger's framing device of intercutting the soldiers comment on their experience after the fact, in a neutral studio setting; and, second, from the way the directors/cinematographers, embedded with the soldiers for the entire year-long deployment, draw the viewer slowly but certainly into the heart of the experience. Restrepo may look in so many ways as a standard war report or film – it marks the same beats as any war story, and deliberately, quietly elides all on-screen wounds or deaths – but quickly reminds us that, behind the cliches and standards, are actual people battling fear, sadness and anger. 
     The whole idea behind Restrepo could be defined as “if you think you know what war is like, think again, because you don't”. And the juxtaposition of the images of the soldiers' haggard looks during the ill-fated “Rock Avalanche” operation messrs. Hetherington and Junger catch on tape, struggling with the battlefield like they never had to before, with their later pensive, still heartbroken attitudes and comments, is reason enough to explain why the two veteran reporters needed to tell this story. Restrepo is about the grunts and the stories of war you seldom see told; that alone made it worthy of the best feature documentary Academy Award it was denied. 

Directed and produced by Tim Hetherington, Sebastian Junger; camera (colour, digital video, Goldcrest post-production), mr. Junger, mr. Hetherington, Jake Clennell; film editor, Michael Levine.
     An Outpost Films presentation/production, in association with National Geographic Channel; executive production, Passion Pictures. (US distributor and world sales, National Geographic Entertainment.)
     Screened: National Geographic Channel screener DVD, Lisbon, May 28th 2011.


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