Saturday, December 11, 2010

"Restrepo" (Documentary) (2010) - Movie Review

How much ever gruesome and realistic a war movie is made, at the end of it you know that it is a film and you move and separate yourself out of it. Yet it feels more guilty to write a review about it doing a futile effort on outreaching in the presumption of relating to it. While most of the films where the hardship, tragedy and brutality is nothing to even comment about it relating to, it is more like survivor’s guilt for a reviewer. “Restrepo” is the film one cannot get themselves out of it because it is on there, right there and you are there.

That last line of the previous paragraph have been said and written by this reviewer and many others about several films and this time around if there is a visceral way to mean it, I would. “Restrepo” is the documentary wherein Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington spent alongside the US soldiers in Afghanistan. More than alongside, they were within the Second Platoon, B Company, 2nd Batallion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (airborne) of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. The daring risk they undertook for this project to be put in the most active war zone puts me in disbelief on the passion they are towards whatever the things they are passionate about to do. It is uncomfortable for me to say that as their job.

The 2nd Platoon were placed in the Korangal valley in Eastern Afghanistan when they film begins. Being consistently fired on a daily basis they lost their friend PFC Juan “Doc” Restrepo. They advanced towards a vantage point supposedly occupied by the Taliban and set up their outpost. They called it Restrepo. They were stationed out there for a year dealing with the locals and deafened by the artilleries and what not.

“Restrepo” is a film that does not have a heavy purpose as most of the documentary might possibly have to begin with. As journalists Junger and Hetherington were to report the happenings of that year, their report translates into a film which does not get marred by an agenda. For a documentary to go without an agenda is a dare in itself but when the soldiers out there fight to live and sustain one another day, that is the only agenda in their broad scheme of things. The politics, values, emotions and the perspective of everything does not vanish but are buried beneath the ground they stand. Till they head back to the world wherein fear is not the daily cereal, there is nothing in terms of straight thought.

The soldiers in the platoon provide interview opening their soul in the hope of getting some sanity back in their civilian life. The film begins and shudders the notion of film from it when the vehicle they are driving in flat faces an explosion. While documentary itself is clear enough for being real, it does not gets more real until you see this. The soldiers giving interviews give the routines and key points. They talk about how they felt about the situation rather than their stands in war or strategy or mishaps. This does not mean that the war is free from it but this film is not about those.

Eastern Afghanistan is nothing short of beautiful and that makes this even more worse. The snow covered mountains and the lush green vegetation combined with serene water stream amongst the patchy frozen parts of its shore are something the cameras definitely are not bringing justice to it. I can imagine being there and feel the air of course without the smokes, blood and guns. Only a viewer comfortably placed at the palms of his home can see those. May be those soldiers saw those and had their peaceful moments if only for short span of time.

Not even for a moment we see any targets. The soldiers shoot the mountains with all they have got and then some to eradicate whoever and whatever are is out there. The Captain and Colonel have their monthly meeting with the valley elders to have some semblance of peace talks. The towns people see the soldiers as aliens which they are and they hide their helplessness. In between these terrorizing moments they have their offbeat jokes that are the memories they can relive of those days especially the one which involves a cow.

“Restrepo” is a true documentary which cannot get closer and provide a narrow slit of opportunity for the civilian souls the torture of fighting. Every soldier knows before they get on the process of enduring these ordeals and witnessing their buddies bleed out but even with all the information, I cannot possibly bring myself to be in that situation and feel it. If signed up and get posted there, what can I possibly do to protect myself and survive another day? I am sure all these soldiers thought about it and they go through with it. What kept them alive or the ones not is not the question of the film rather it makes ask yourself that. It does not ask sympathy or empathy but the awareness of such experience. “Restrepo” is one of the best documentaries I have seen.

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