Directed by Tim Heatherington & Sebastian Junger
When I looked at the 2011 Academy Award shortlist for Documentaries, it was to no surprise to find this as one of fifteen documentaries from 2010 still in the running for Oscar consideration. I had heard great things about it. But it didn’t live up to anything for me. Restrepo is a film about Battle Company who is sent to the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan for a 15 month deployment. The intrigue? The Korengal Valley is the most dangerous place on earth for an American soldier. The film is a combination of interviews which took place in Italy and high stress/energy action taking place in the valley.
The story is that the new unit must cope with the mistakes made by the previous unit in regard to the local villagers. They must also deal with being in firefights multiple times every single day. They must cope with pushing forward and developing a new outpost, Restrepo, further into enemy territory. They must also deal with the death of fellow soldiers, like “Doc” Restrepo. These people are their friends and allies, but it is their job to fight the enemy and undergo the hellish conditions of war.
The problem I found with this documentary is that it didn’t cover anything I didn’t already know. War is hell and there is nothing worse on this earth than the conditions faced in war. This particular unit is unique to be in the most dangerous place for U.S. military personnel, but what about the other soldiers on the front lines? What about soldiers of our allies? Then there is the story of the men, but what makes their stories more compelling than any other soldier faced with war and the death of a friend? I do not mean to belittle the experiences of the men featured in this documentary because what they do cannot be valued enough by the people of this country, but what I am saying is that the filmmaking does not present me with anything new or especially unique and in that regard the film does nothing more than show us what we already know. What the film does have going for it is timeliness and the extreme rawness of the situations being presented. I also applaud the soldiers depicted, as well as the filmmaker, who had to endure the same conditions for 15 months.