Name: Mitch Armstrong
Text type: Film Review
The death of a best friend. Countless sleepless nights. Starvation. Is that what you imagine when you think of war? War is often portrayed to be all ‘fun and games’ but when you watch Restrepo the harsh reality of war really hits home. People die, people get emotionally damaged. Men cry. If you’re interested in seeing the most visceral film documentary ever done before then watch Restrepo, a war documentary directed by Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington.
Restrepo follows a platoon of soldiers in the Korengal Valley. The directors themselves followed the platoon and took fire sometimes. They did this in five lots of one month deployments. Their purpose was to make the most realistic war film ever made and show a real insight to what war is really like. It features a top secret mission called Rock Avalanche. This is the first time the US army have let anyone have unprecedented access to everything.
The interviews in Restrepo were stimulating. Directors Tim and Sebastian wanted to show the effect that war took on soldiers and show the other side of it, not just the fun side. The interviews showed a personal insight into how the soldiers felt and how it affected them, which is unseen in other war documentaries. Personally this affected me as it made me feel attached the the character because we weren’t just seeing them as a tough soldier, we were seeing them opening up their raw feelings. Through the interviews we were seeing deeply into their lives and they were opening up and this moved me. For example, a close up shot of the soldiers shows their face in detail. The pain in their face is evident and it shows how hard it is for them to talk about their experiences, even after they have returned and many months have passed. I was really moved by the way the directors showed an interview and the effect it had on the soldiers before showing us a scene. A particularly good example of this was before a top secret mission called ‘Operation Rock Avalanche’. The directors showed interviews of the soldiers talking about the mission and how much it affected and messed them up after the war. These types of interviews helped the directors make their point of making the ‘most visceral war film ever’ because it makes it feel more realistic and gruesome.
The camerawork in Restrepo is incredible. The way that the directors unobtrusively filmed the movie gave it a very personal twist. Real life footage shot with personal angles were able to filmed. This portrayed that it was real which captivated the audience because it was raw footage. A humvee takes a hit from a RPG on a routine patrol during the beginning scene of the movie and ‘shit hit the fan’. For example, in the top secret mission ‘Operation Rock Avalanche’ we see footage showing them being ambushed. In no other war documentaries are these real life scenes showed. The directors themselves were in the actual gunfight and they are seen running to cover. I was engaged because it is so real and we see soldiers in their natural state crying and showing raw emotion. Without camera work like this, Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger would have struggled to portray their original goal of creating the ‘most visceral war film ever’. This shows action of the gunfight and switches to interviews. These interviews show the soldiers talking about how terrible war really is and it gives the viewer a really personal insight into their lives. I felt that this connected me to the character more because it felt like they were speaking to me directly.
The film Restrepo is a thrilling action packed war documentary that will not disappoint. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and it changed my perspective on war because I had not realised how much the soldiers are actually affected in war. Soldiers experience multiple losses and they just have to try and forget and move on because they are not allowed any time to grieve. The interviews are real and give a spine chilling perspective to war when combined with the camerawork. Through realistic camerawork a real side of war and never seen before footage inside the ‘deadliest place on Earth’ is shown to the viewers. I would recommend Restrepo to anyone who is interested to know more about war and the lengths soldiers go to protect us.