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Al Haj Ali
Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington's year dug in with the Second Platoon in one of Afghanistan's most strategically crucial valleys reveals extraordinary insight into the surreal combination of back breaking labor, deadly firefights, and camaraderie as the soldiers painfully push back the Taliban. Written by
Sundance Film Festival
It's a strange way to fight, without ever seeing the people you're shooting at and who are shooting at you.
The strongest aspect about this viewpoint documentary is its lack of an opinionated narration. The filmmakers--who deserve commendations of their own for putting themselves in the line of fire for 15 months--let the soldiers and their activities tell the story, the firefights, patrols, attempts to communicate with the Afghans, mundane chores.
And they let the viewer judge for meaning.
It isn't possible, however, to truly capture a year and three months in 90 minutes. I did find it curious that so much interview footage was cut. If you see it on DVD, don't miss the interviews shown under special features. Perhaps the director-cameramen wanted to keep the ratio heavier on footage than interviews.
In one omitted interview, the unit Captain admits that he thought he was responsible for losing even one soldier. He also mentions that one of those killed was the unit Sergeant Major's son. There should have been some way to weave this into the story.
Another soldier says he hates the terms "you did what you had to do" because he doesn't think he really had to do it. Says he doesn't think God will greet him with a playful punch to the shoulder and say "you did what you had to do." It's powerful stuff, the included and the omitted footage. For the most part we fight now with volunteers. The mix of soldiers is a bit different than it was when there was a draft, but "Restrepo" shows that American forces still bring a wide range of backgrounds and reactions.
And it shows that most are still so young that we are still sending kids to do the jobs old men ask them to do. They are brave, fearful, obscene, committed for the wrong reasons, committed for right reasons, and committed for no reason at all.
It's a powerful view.
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