I have not seen Cyrus or The Kids Are All Right or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but I have seen Restrepo. And so should you. A documentary that follows a company of troops in the Korangal Valley in Afghanistan one of the big battle grounds of the war, and a base that they build called “Restrepo” named after a field medic killed on the site. I’ll let A.O. Scott of The New York Times take it away:
There is nothing especially fancy or innovative here, just a blunt, sympathetic, thorough accounting of the daily struggle to stay alive and accomplish something constructive.
You don’t see any kills on-camera, but its a very vivid film and the sense of terror and doom never leaves. Of course, the toughest scenes to watch are when the military conducts meetings with the local elders. The US army’s attempts to persuade these very, very poor farmers that their missions success would bring “better jobs” and “health care” is past cringe worthy. It’s sad. The elders’ response to these meetings is inquiring why a local cow was killed (tripped on a wire) or why won young man was arrested in the village. This is a completely non-political film in terms of content, but on can’t help draw conclusions – or at least ask the obvious question – of what we think we are going to accomplish there. The final title card is the real heartache. After we witness these men essentially knock on death’s door for 14 months between 2007 and 2008, the film reveals that the US abandoned its base in the Korangal valley in April of this year. There were very loud gasps in the theater I attended.
But, in the end, I must say I found the film’s characters very inspiring and agree with Scott’s final assessment.
I don’t want to lecture, but as the war in Afghanistan returns to the front pages and the national debate, we owe the men in “Restrepo,” at the very least, 90 minutes or so of our attention. If nothing else, this film, in showing how much they care about one another, demands the same of us.