This documentary by journalists Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger, about their 2007 stay with an American platoon in a Taliban-infested region of Afghanistan, raises its voice by lowering it.
Stripped almost bare of mood music and input from experts or Army poobahs, this hyper-vérité film belongs to the soldiers whose daily routines are followed as they hole up in a valley that turns them into “fish in a barrel” for Taliban snipers.
The warrior drama unfolds organically, without artificial suspense. The film moves to the rhythms of a combat soldier’s life in the field, which consists of long periods of unspeakable tedium interrupted by the confused mayhem of battle with an unseen enemy.
If it wasn’t punctuated with post-deployment testimony from the young surviving soldiers back at their base in Italy, the film would unfold almost without formal structure. Restrepo shares sympathy for its raw young subjects, but it is neither romantic nor sentimental about the impossibly contradictory tasks these men have been charged with and the sometimes clueless ways in which they try to maintain good relations with local communities, even as they bomb the crap out of their villages.
Talk about the fog of war.