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Tense...really tense.
MartinHafer16 September 2015
"Restrepo" is a documentary from Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger and it was nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. Shortly after this film debuted, Hetherington was killed while filming another military documentary in Libya. This isn't at all surprising, as the filmmakers were clearly in very dangerous territory while making these front line battle films.

The film consists of following the 2nd platoon, Battle Company in the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan. This was one of the most dangerous places any of the US military units could be at that time and the film chronicles the unit's action--including firefights, losses of troops in action and everyday activities. The name Restrepo, by the way, is the name of the company's camp--which was named after a member who lost his life in Afghanistan.

Overall, it's an interesting film...but. I say BUT because there are other similar films which were made in Afghanistan in recent years. So, there's sort of a 'been there/done that' feel to the movie--though it is well made and I really respect the filmmakers for putting themselves in this place and for making a very tense film.
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Very Strong Documentary
Michael_Elliott10 July 2012
Restrepo (2010)

*** 1/2 (out of 4)

Filmmakers Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger spent time with a platoon of U.S. soldiers as they were placed on a tour in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan, which is considered one of the deadliest places you could go. Throughout the year the filmmakers were able to capture a wide range of events and emotions including the men losing friends, going into battles without the necessary tools and also having to deal with locals who many have families fighting with the Taliban. RESTREPO has a clear anti-war message that might rub some the wrong way but I think the majority of people, no matter what side of the debate they're on, should enjoy this documentary for a number of reasons but the biggest is the fact that it really gets you into a platoon and so close to the action and I'd say it does this more than any film before it. Yes, Hollywood has pumped out countless war pictures going with platoons on missions but this one here is real and the violence is real. I think some of the most dramatic scenes are of course the ones where the soldiers come under attack because it gives you a clear idea of the terror and confusion going on when someone is fired upon. There's one scene where a soldier is killed during a battle and just seeing what follows with his friends seeing him die is without a doubt very powerful. The most interesting footage comes during meetings between the soldiers and the actual people of this village, many of whom are upset with the death of their children, family or friends. In one of the strangest scenes, one Afghan man is upset because the soldiers killed his cow after it was caught up in one of their safety wires. RESTREPO is a must see simply because of the access the filmmakers had and of course the stories of the men who knowingly walk into dangerous and deadly battles each day.
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real reality
SnoopyStyle29 October 2016
It's May 2007. The Men of Battle Company 2nd of the 503rd Infantry Regiment 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team are deployed to the Korengal valley in Afghanistan for the next 15 months. It's one of the most dangerous assignment where they face fire every day from the Taliban. Filmmakers Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger follow them in their tour. Early on, Pvt Juan 'Doc' Restrepo is killed. They build a new outpost and name it OP Restrepo. The locals live in small hillside communities. Their loyalties are questionable. There is a dispute when the troops kill and eat a cow belonging to a villager which got entangled in the outpost's wire. There is nothing quite as tense as reality. There is nothing quite as emotionally powerful as men crying over their fallen comrade in the middle of a firefight.
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An engaging document of that place at that time
bob the moo18 July 2013
I have seen a handful of documentaries around Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years and even if I hadn't, the news networks do a very good job of providing constant footage from the front lines. With this flow of information there is the risk that one gets used to it, that seeing soldiers in a firefight is perhaps not as astonishing as it was and that the stories of one group of soldiers versus another doesn't really stand out as something different or worth seeking out. Restrepo rises above that problem by virtue of how good the access is and how intense the fighting is in the specific part of Afghanistan they are in.

The film doesn't seem to have an agenda that it pushes to the point where it drags the footage behind it in the way some narrator-led films can. There is a point (or points) that are almost impossible not to take away from watching it, but the film lets you get there on your own as you watch. The downside of this approach is that it does sit back and just watch – not adding structure or constant narration to fill in the details and hold our hand, even contributions after the fact are pretty limited. This wasn't a massive problem from my point of view but I can understand why some would feel it was. Generally though this "in it" feel works very well, producing a sense of intimacy which the nature of the guys really fosters. The footage is tremendous whether it be inside meetings with locals or in the middle to a firefight, it is technically impressive but also harrowing and engaging.

It isn't the perfect film though, because it does feel sparse in a way that works for it and slightly against it. The viewer is allowed to see everything but without too much discussion or probing we are not really sure how these guys coped and what effect it had on them afterwards, so there is still that divide that understandably no amount of close footage can close. It is well worth seeing though for just how good the access is and how clear and simple their documenting of this place and this time is.
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Cause (and effect)
kosmasp30 December 2010
This documentary will not make you an expert on war. Be it the one it is depicting (though it does concentrate on one location) nor in general. What it does though, is letting the people who are in the spotlight talk. It actually only lets them talk. And while it is disguised as one thing, you could interpret it as something completely different too, if you want to that is.

And you can only do that, because there is not a commentary that tells you, what you are supposed to feel, while watching the men doing what they do. You hear them and depending on your background you will piece together what is happening. How crazy or sane you think someone is. If the person does the right thing or not, is up to you to decide. Would you act differently? Shouldn't the other people be treated with more respect too?

And that is what makes the documentary so unique (to me). It's about loss, but there is even more loss there, than the one that you hear the people talk about. The movie is asking you: What do you think? Do you dare answer?
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once you're on the ground, things get real
lee_eisenberg3 May 2021
The Afghanistan War has been the US's longest war in recent memory, although Biden has discussed the possibility of withdrawing troops. For the most part the war is a distant topic to the US public. Sebastian Junger's and Tim Hetherington's Academy Award-nominated "Restrepo" focuses on a US platoon in the Korangal Valley. It's a place without even the most minor convenience, and practically every decision in this setting is a life-or-death move. The guys in the platoon can only press on with their duty, ask the villagers questions, and hope not to get killed.

I doubt that any movie or documentary can fully show us the intensity of the battlefields of Afghanistan, but this one comes close. We get to see a lot of the nitty-gritty, whether in the fighting or in the troops' do-to-day activities. I recommend the documentary.
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A rare inside look at the young soldiers task fighting in Afghanistan.
TxMike4 January 2011
Warning: Spoilers
We watched it on Netflix streaming video.

This documentary resides with an Army platoon for its 15 month assignment in the Korangal Valley, sometimes referred to as the most dangerous place on Earth. One of the young men we see in opening footage, traveling by train, is 'Doc' Restrepo. In early fighting in Afghanistan he is killed, and when the platoon moves into the valley to occupy a new outpost on a ridge, in his honor they name it 'Outpost Restrepo.' This is a worthwhile documentary, a rare glimpse into the lives of young men, many looking like mere boys, as they carry out their orders. Even the Capatain in command looks to be 25 or 26 years old, probably a recent graduate of West Point or a college ROTC program.

The video is realistic, the shooting is real, and when yet another friend gets killed in fighting some find it hard to keep their composure. It puts war into a personal perspective.

What struck me most, however, is the relative absurdity of American troops trying to discuss logic with the Afghanistan elders (non-Taliban) in their weekly meetings. The Captain wants to assure them that they will benefit when the road is built, when the Taliban are defeated. But the elders want to discuss why their cow was killed, and why apparently innocent citizens are sometimes killed.

Or the exchange with the young man, who with his father is a goat farmer, when asked in he had any information about the Taliban, "If we give you any information they will kill us." I believe the most difficult task for Americans trying to accomplish anything in foreign countries, like Iraq or Afghanistan, is the hurdle of trying to identify with what they think and believe, what their priorities are. Our troops just don't have a very good way of doing that, and this documentary shows that very clearly.
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a courageous film that shows a war that is, like the Korangal Valley, a loop of grit and despair
Quinoa198417 July 2010
It's inarguable that we need to support up the soldiers in Afghanistan. It's the cliché in political speeches, but this film shows that this is more than just a saying when given a human face and context. Restrepo doesn't try and bluntly make the case that the conflict there that the US is engaged in is really worth it, or that we should leave immediately. The filmmakers let the soldiers speak for themselves, and the situation tells much more about what's really going on there. The ground troop that makes Restrepo- named after a much beloved fallen man that died suddenly during a small attack- which is a fort on a hill overlooking the valley, are all mostly kids who are in the army for one reason or another (one of them, who gives the most background, came from a hippie-family), and they are where they are and got to buck up with the situation for the months into the year it goes on till they are relieved.

We see some of the action, but if you're looking for the traditional war film please look elsewhere. This doesn't share the intensity of, say, last year's The Hurt Locker, but the film isn't on the same wavelength stylistically. Junger and Hetherington want these faces of the soldiers, and their experiences, to tell more than the visceral shocks that are shown on screen. Point in fact, there isn't a whole lot of action on screen, either because, logically, it would be difficult for the already in-grave-danger cameraman to get it on film (most of all that Rocky Mountain Ridge episode that everyone's haunted by), or that the US Army wouldn't allow it to be shown in the film. It's here, in having the lack of what we expect to see in a war film, that it gathers its strength and resonance.

The film Restrepo is engaging and absorbing as a collection of moments and scenes, detailing what everyday life was like there, and sometimes it could be just plain dull, or on the 'downlow' as it were. We see the dealings the army tries to make with the locals, who are either too scared of the Taliban (one gets the sense they're like a mafia with bigger guns) or don't want to help since, frankly, the US ends up killing a few civilians here and there, many of whom have never seen US troops before. Or, on the flipside, those that do want to deal with the soldiers after a cow is caught in the outlying fence on the perimeter and is killed, which is valuable property to the natives. And we also get to see how these guys, mostly kids in their early 20's or younger, having some relaxing time when not being fired at or firing back.

To be sure, some sequences are intense, such as the Rocky Mountain Ridge tale which has the soldiers being interviewed still unable to handle with the casualties and how they were surrounded by the Afghan forces. But what one walks away from this film, shot in the Korangal with straightforward, sobering shots of soldiers doing what they do, and with telling interviews shot much later when they were in Italy, is how they weathered the chaos and did accomplish something there with the fort (albeit later abandoned altogether in April 2010). It's extraordinary to see it so up close, and to put the human face on it. The audience, however they feel about the conflict currently (from the looks of things Obama's keeping soldiers there for longer stretches until "it" is "won"), get a fresh perspective and can walk away with their own conclusions. That, and those haunted faces of the soldiers themselves, who in profile have that stare in their eyes, sometimes more-so than others depending on when talking about what, and knowing that look may be there for the rest of their lives.
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War: up close and personal.
michaelRokeefe7 March 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This war documentary is very well done and really not meant for the squeamish or timid. Rough and raw language throughout including vocalized descriptions of violence. Two filmmakers, Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington, are embedded with a platoon in the deadliest valley of Afghanistan. The two filmmakers spend a year with the Second Platoon as they battle al-Qaeda and Taliban strongholds in the dreaded Korengal Valley, where the fighting is crucial and surreal. The soldiers painfully push on with break-back effort, fierce firefights and extraordinary precision in their battle with the Taliban. The besieged squad dubbed their outpost in the honor of their fallen comrade PFC Juan Restrepo. Every shot fired seemed to be of personal nature and each target hit a payback to Restrepo. Others in the Second Platoon: Dan Kearny, Aron Hijar, Miguel Cortez, Angel Toves and Marc Solowski.
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There's An Element Of Having Seen It All Before
Theo Robertson11 July 2013
Named after a medic killed in a Taliban attack RESTREPO is a documentary featuring a tour of B Company of the 2nd Battlion of the American 503rd Infantry regiment in the Korangal Valley in Afghanistan in 2007 and documents the realities of life and death in a counter-insurgency conflict We've all heard of Afghanistan and we all have an opinion on it and this shows the earlier stages of the conflict . This is the problem with RESTREPO when it was released in 2010 in that it had a slightly seen it all before feel which is heavily compounded if like me you've seen it for the very first time in 2013 . Let me elaborate:

In 2006 Nato lost 193 troops in Afghanistan

2007 Nato lost 228 troops

2008 Nato lost 296 troops

2009 Nato lost 516 troops

2010 Nato lost 710 troops

All this makes very grim reading and a tragedy for the people involved . Afghanistan was the Mecca for journalists from all over the world to make a name for themselves for either decent honest motives or for rather more cynical motives . Either way the country and the combatants would be a daily feature on news and documentary channels and we've seen these type of documentaries before such as the BBC's few genuinely compelling documentaries of recent years OUR WAR . In effect - and I emphasise no disrespect to anyone - RESTREPO doesn't bring much new to the table and you're left with a feeling of having seen it all before
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Intense, engaging war documentary
grantss12 May 2016
Intense, engaging war documentary.

A documentary covering a deployment of Battle Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team in 2007- 8. The deployment lasted 15 months and was at one of the most dangerous places on earth - certainly the most dangerous place, at the time, for US forces: the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan. Journalist Sebastian Junger and photojournalist Tim Hetherington were embedded with the 2nd Platoon of B Company and captured their daily lives, the action, the military strategy, the interaction with the community and the tragedy.

An engaging documentary that captures very well the intensity, suddenness and randomness of combat, and what it can do to those involved. We also see the diplomatic complexities that the US forces have to overcome, as they try to keep the civilian population onside while at the same time treating them with suspicion and occasionally accidentally injuring them and/or disrupting their lives.

The trauma of taking casualties, especially fatalities, is well explored, as is the bond between the soldiers which makes the casualties harder to take.

A well-made, bravely-filmed documentary with no political agenda (which is a good thing).
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Grunt's Eye View of a Depressing War
evanston_dad22 February 2011
Filmmakers Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger take their cameras into the trenches for a "day in the life" look at what it's like to fight in the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan, nicknamed the most dangerous place on earth.

There, a platoon of battle-weary men fight the Taliban, an elusive spectre of an enemy that they rarely actually see. They seem to have little interest in what they're doing or why they're doing it; they only come alive immediately after a fire-fight (of which they have at least 3 or 4 a day), when the adrenaline of battle gives them a natural high. The rest of the time they spend going about their more mundane duties, feeling at all times like fish in a barrel.

Late into the film, one of their men is killed in a battle that pretty much all of them agree was one of their worst moments during the whole period. Other men had been killed, but this seems to be one of the first that the men actually see die before their eyes. It has a devastating effect -- they collapse into sobs and turn instantly from fighting men into small boys, and our hearts go out to them with compassion and the frustrated regret that they have to live like this while the rest of us go about our cushy existence.

"Restrepo" confirms what a lot of fictional accounts of the War on Terror (or whatever it is we're calling it now) have suggested: the feelings of determination and vengeance that got us into all of these messy military conflicts have long since given way to depressed resignation. No one is really sure what we're doing anymore, these soldiers least of all, and watching "Restrepo" didn't feel much different from watching a documentary about Vietnam.

Grade: A
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jdesando19 August 2010
"The horror! The horror! " Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness.

CNN describes Afghanistan's Korangal Valley as "the most dangerous place in the world." After seeing the powerful documentary Restrepo, I can understand the description, and I can admire an almost new dimension to that type of film: objectivity.

An American company of soldiers spent 15 months in that valley with filmmakers Tom Hetherington and Sebastian Junger recording the soldiers' combat and more importantly their personal reactions. For indeed Restrepo is about soldiers fighting an enemy they can't see, a boredom they can't leave behind, and friendships they will keep forever, depending on how long forever can be in such a hostile environment.

The singular feature of this Oscar-winning film is its attempt to make no judgment about the appropriateness of the war; it just chronicles the lives of young men stretched by fate to an endurance few of us could even imagine. Not that it's all that bloody or manic; it's just that the terror of an enemy hidden by mountains hangs about like a fog to such an extent that when they do kill one far away in the foothills, they rejoice as if they had wiped out a platoon. When the tired soldiers dance to "Touch Me (I Want Your Body)" by Gunther and Samantha Fox, they celebrate life, not killing.

Back to that objectivity: Even a documentary marries fiction when directors choose some images over others. In Restrepo the choices lead me to question how the US could ever win this war, not because that's the directors' statement but because the successes are limited to building a stronghold, Restrepo (named after a fallen comrade), at the top of a mountain among mountains that dare the most powerful army in history to try to win this one when none has ever been won here. Indeed, the army has subsequently withdrawn.

While the fictional Hurt Locker minimized its bloodshed in favor of the representational, Restrepo takes no liberties but goes for the real, which in this case is like waiting around a movie set for something to happen. And when it does, it can win an Academy Award.
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21st Century Cowboys and Indians
tieman6426 April 2011
Warning: Spoilers
"Is there any man here that does not know that the seed of war in the modern world is industrial and commercial rivalry?" – Woodrow Wilson

Like most "fly on the wall" war documentaries, "Restrepo" is an exercise in macho sentimentality. The tale of a U.S. Army platoon based in Afghanistan, it unfolds like a typical war movie, alternating between moments of downtime, and moments of tense, adrenaline pumping violence. Simple military values and emotions are then espoused – sacrifice, heroism, male bonding, the frustrations and drudgery of killing an unseen enemy – the end result being a narrative arc designed to make you feel sad for what our boys, and their zillions of dollars worth of hardware, must endure in the name of spreading "freedom". It's Kipling's "White Man's Burden" posing as objectivity.

The soldiers themselves are the usual assortment of jar-heads; most view war as a rights of passage, a chance to prove their manhood, define themselves, go on an adventure and do "something important". These are trivial reasons to enlist, but the military has always been a cultic institution, preying on the anxieties and insecurities of the young.

"Armadillo" pretends to be apolitical, but the very act of avoiding all context is itself a firm ideological stance. What the film ignores is the fact that the Taliban have been deliberately dehumanised by the West for a number of decades. They are painted as irrational fanatics, intolerant fundamentalists, bearded extremists, and terrorists. This, of course, paves the way for aggression, war, and genocide, all of which are waged under the guise of collective self-defence. Killing the Taliban is then celebrated as a legal virtue. To leave the Taliban in control of Afghanistan, says the US and NATO, is to leave a haven for terrorism.

Yet before 9/11, these same "terrorists" were Washington's close allies. They were funded, supported and hailed as "freedom fighters" who with "our help" would be able to fend off the Soviet Union, whom the American public were told sought to destroy Afghanistan. Under the pretext that the Afghan government was a Soviet puppet, which was false, the then Carter Administration authorised the covert funding of opposition tribal groups. These groups were armed and trained in secret camps set up in Pakistan by the CIA.

Thus was born "mujaheddin", a campaign of terror which resulted in the Afghan government in Kabul requesting the help of the Soviet Union, resulting in an ill-fated military intervention which ended ten years later with the retreat of Soviet forces and the descent of Afghanistan into an abyss of religious intolerance, poverty, warlordism and violence. So contrary to "official history", the mujaheddin did not arise in response to a hostile Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The Soviet Union intervened at the request of the Afghan government in response to the instability being wrought by a US funded and armed insurgency. See Nicaragua, Syria, Iraq and Libya.

After 9/11, the White House then turned against the very "allies" they supported, a pattern which we find occurring throughout history. Think Washington's funding of Saddam Hussein against Iran, prior to sweeping in and wiping him out decades later. In the case of the Taliban, the justification for their newfound status as "our enemies" became their supposed links to the WTC attacks and their sudden "oppression of women". In reality the Taliban had nothing to do with 9/11, and were the White House concerned about women's rights they wouldn't be close allies with countless other counties, most notably Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, both of which practise an "Islamic Law" akin to the Taliban.

The real reason for the West's change of stance toward Afghanistan? During the mid 90s several mega oil corporations began to seduce the Taliban, all seeking approval to build pipelines across the country. Eventually the deal came down to a handful of corporations, the Unocal-CentGas consortium (which later "became" Chevron, and which has ties to the Bush family and Dick Cheney) and Bridas (an Argentine company). While negotiations were underway, Bridas found a partner in gas giant Amoco and Amoco itself went on to merge with British Petroleum. Throw in the fact that Gazprom, a Russian gas company, pulled out of the Unocal-CentGas consortium and that Unocol's proposed pipeline was closed to Afghanistan, whilst that proposed by Bridas would also service the local market, and it looked likely that the Taliban would strike business deals with Bridas. In response, Unocal and its lackeys stepped up their game. Their Vice President of International Relations appeared before the US Congress in February 1998, basically calling for the removal of the Taliban regime. The Taliban themselves were issued an ultimatum: take our offer or we drop the bombs. Meanwhile, cue the Clinton administration's sudden concern about "human right violations" in Afghanistan, the seizing of all US-held Taliban assets, the placement of trade bans, and the calling for the "surrender of Bin Laden". In other words, it was only when absolute control of oil was challenged that the Taliban regime was openly discredited.

Although the Taliban continued to offer negotiations on the handover of Osama bin Laden, the atrocities of 9/11 gave Washington oil policies a convenient new all-inclusive justification. Oil motivations, never a popular foreign-policy justification, could now be submerged within a primal response to a deep-seated national combination of fear, loathing and outrage.

Incidentally, drug trafficking constitutes the third largest global commodity after oil and the arms trade. Afghanistan produces 92 percent of the world's opium, the profits of which are laundered back to the West or channelled toward corrupt chieftains and locals. The longer the war can be prolonged, the more these 3 industries profit. Unsurprisingly, most of the major White House players during this era were affiliated with oil companies active in Central Asia (Condolezza Rice, Bush, Zalmay Khalilzad, Hamid Karzai, Cheney, Donald Evans, Gale Norton, Spencer Abraham, Thomas White etc).

6/10 – Superficial.
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Surprisingly raw and real!
Hellmant13 February 2011
'RESTREPO': Four Stars (Out of Five)

Tim Hetherington, a British photojournalist, and Sebastian Junger, an American journalist, direct their first film, a documentary following a platoon in Afghanistan. The filmmakers actually risked their lives to follow the soldiers around for a year and captured some pretty remarkable footage. They don't interact with the soldiers at all and instead let them tell their story to the cameras through interviews and of course through their actions with each other and on the battlefield. The footage is surprisingly raw and real.

Hetherington and Junger joined the Second Platoon of B Company, 2nd Battalion, in Korengal Valley (then known as "the deadliest place on Earth") for 15 months as they attempted to rid it of insurgents. The film focuses on the death of two soldiers in particular, one being PFC Restrepo who the platoon then named an outpost they constructed after (in one night while fighting off combatants). The film also focuses on a deadly mission known as 'Rock Avalanche' which the platoon suffered some major losses at. Battle footage is inter-cut with camera interviews, the soldiers daily routines and the men just messing around as well as getting emotional.

It received the Grand Jury Prize for best documentary at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and is nominated for best documentary feature at the upcoming Academy Awards, as well as being showered with a great deal of other critical acclaim. I liked and respected the way the filmmakers really got into the action and caught some truly amazing footage, and of course respected the men they filmed and was in awe of their courage. I thought the film could have been directed and put together a little nicer though. It drags at several points greatly because of lack of focus and the inexperience of the filmmakers. I've heard there's a great deal of interesting cut footage on the DVDs and I think a better film could probably have been made from it and the video they did use, at the hands of more talented filmmakers. What they do have to present is still amazing, it's almost a given with the video they have but they went out and got it. It's a touching and memorable film none the less.

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A great insight look at what U.S soldiers in combat go through, every-day. A very intense documentary.
ironhorse_iv11 November 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I fear no evil. Welcome to the suck! Directed by American journalist Sebastian Junger, this documentary tells the story of American troops stationed in the Korengal Valley in northeastern Afghanistan during the Afghan War of the early 21th century. At the time of this film was made, Korengal Valley was one of the most deadly active combat zone in U.S military history. Filmed during the 2007/2008 years of the War in Afghanistan. The film takes a fly-on-the-wall approach, by showing how the men of Battle Company 2nd of the 503rd Infantry Regiment 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team run the area, as they try to negotiations with the local people, construction of an advanced outpost, as well as the challenges and intermittent firefights they face. Interspersed between stock footage of action, are interviews with the soldiers themselves as they look back on what they did right and wrong, and how it affected them. The emotional distress that the soldiers went, through is very haunting. It's really hard to watch them, talk about certain mission, such as Operation Rock Avalanche, due to its tragic consequences. The movie use close up, during the interviews, so well, that you can see the expressions on their faces, not realizing or understanding how they're going to live with this experience for the rest of their lives. Nothing is "candy coated". Just pure, raw energy, bravery, and emotion. While, the combat footage doesn't show, any of the enemy. You can really, tell, how, their unseen presence, affect the soldiers, there. They hardly any down time, in the beginning. I'm awe-inspired by their courage under fire, even if, most of the time, they shooting bullets at ghosts. However, there were some funny parts to lighten up the film toward the middle and the end. The exchange between the elders of the village and the soldiers, about a shot cow was somewhat humorous to witness. Why in the living hell, would the captain think that the locals would take a small bag of rice and beans, over steak, would work!? It's really unbelievable funny, how naïve, the captain is. However, the scene where the troops are celebrating on being alive, dancing to Samantha Fox's song, "Touch me" was fun to watch. Still, the movie's shaking cam is a bit of a headache to watch. You can barely figure out, what's going on and to whom, half the time. There are just way too many men for this documentary to cover. I really didn't to know, most of them, that well. It doesn't help that the movie footage is full of military jargon and acronyms. There is a lack of subtlety within the language. It doesn't help, that some of the documentary footage, makes, the morals of the soldiers, somewhat look questionable. Lots of over-violent aggressive masculine being shown here, rather than winning the hearts & minds heroics. It's also weird to see, that most of them, have little to no idea, why they're fighting here. The movie doesn't once, address their views of the war. They never address, if their actions, are doing good or not. Other things, that the film fails to talk about, is the legal basis of their occupation like actions. In truth, the army has little to no legal right to order the Afghan citizens around. It's the job of the local police. The movie shows great examples of the loss of communications, between the local tribes and those of the U.S military. You really do, see, the villagers' perspective, in safety when it comes to protecting their families and clan members. From their point of view, the presence of the U.S. military hasn't made their lives more secure. Quite the opposite; their presence endangers them, and no amount of money from the military can change, their opinion on it. It a sign of really bad leadership, when the only way, to solve a problem is to toss money at it. You really do see the lack of cultural sensitivity and empathy within the soldiers. Never once, did the documentary, show the soldiers trying to understand, Afghan culture and why they live, the way, they do. It also hurts to see, the soldiers rarely showing empathy when it comes to accidentally innocent civilians. You would think, they would be more apologetic. Things like that, could be, our undoing there, if we don't address them. In the end, U.S. military did had pulls out of the Korengal Valley, because fail to win the heart & minds of the locals. Still, it's not too late for, building relationship with the whole country. Overall: While, some critics see this film as an American jingoism propaganda. Others see it as an objective movie about the war in Afghanistan. In my opinion, it's both, anti-war and patriotic. It's a gritty depiction of the (sur) realities of modern warfare. A must-watch.
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Prisoners of war...
poe4268 November 2013
George Santayana said it best, and a documentary like this one drives home the point: those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it. Brainwashed by first-person shooter video games and living in a schizophrenic society like this one, the young men in RESTREPO are shown learning the lessons soldiers have learned throughout history (see my first sentence). I watched this one yesterday- not long after seeing a segment of DEMOCRACY NOW! about the Rolling Stone cover story, "The A-Team Killings." Like the COLLATERAL MURDER video, the article in question brings to light atrocities committed by American soldiers. In RESTREPO, we see naive young men, armed to the teeth, waging war against poor people who live in mud and stone homes with corrugated tin roofs held up by wooden support beams. They rarely express doubts about what they're doing (until they see firsthand the Reality of being on the receiving end) and they remind me of the young soldiers I used to ferry to and from nearby military bases. I would invariably ask these soldiers WHY they enlisted and I always got the same three answers: 1) It was a job that PAID. 2) It provided training for when they got out of the military. 3) They got to "drive tanks and kill some sand n-----s." AND: every single one of them said that George W. Bush was- and I quote-: "An a--hole." (An update, for those who care: Israel has already bombed Syria, despite Obama's attempt(s) at Diplomacy.)
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A riveting documentary that shows us the human face of a pointless war
howard.schumann14 May 2011
Winner of the Grand Jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival, Restrepo is an up close and personal documentary about the war in Afghanistan that depicts the day-to-day experiences of combat soldiers of the Second Platoon, Battle Company, 173rd Airborne Brigade as seen through their own eyes. The film has no narration or interpretation by experts, no special effects or background music, only an intimate recording by journalists Hetherington and Junger, who risked their lives to spend fifteen months with the men and to record their activities, some mundane, others hellish.

The film is named for the military outpost in the crucial Korengal valley that the American soldiers built to honor one of their fallen friends, a 20-year-old medic, Juan "Doc" Restrepo, who was killed by the Taliban in July, 2007. Hetherington and Junger maintain a non-political stance, focusing only on the men, their courage and camaraderie, the highs and lows, the tedium and endless firefights, and the agony of having to come to terms with loss. Like the atrocity of the war itself, the film seemingly has no beginning and no end, only the end of one phase and the beginning of another, the battle for one rock and then another.

As each soldier talks to the camera about their thoughts and feelings, their words convey an unforgettable impact, especially when they describe the terror of a mission called Operation Rock Avalanche, during which they came under the heaviest fire. It is not clear what the men thought about the mission, but what is clear is the bond they forged with each other and the heroism with which they faced the possibility that each new day could be their last. One of the most moving segments of the film is when a young soldier openly expresses his grief when learning of the death of his friend. If you have a heart that's still beating, it will be torn to bits.

While the bravery of the men is unquestioned, like soldiers in any war, their focus is on the job in front of them and there is little time for reflection. In an unforgiving terrain, where even the enemy is an abstraction, it is hard to distinguish between "good guys" and "bad guys" and the gunfire is aimed at a mostly unseen foe. At the same time, local farmers, including women and children, are often mistakenly killed by bombs dropped from helicopters, exacerbating strained relations with the local population. Locals are angry and demand money when one of their cows is killed, but only rice, beans, and sugar are offered as compensation along with vague promises about building an infrastructure in the area that will create jobs (what kind of jobs is not discussed).

In the midst of this insanity, it is sad is to hear platoon leaders still talking about how war makes boys into men, a theme used throughout history to justify turning recruits who join the military out of love of country, into dehumanized killers. Restrepo is a riveting documentary that shows us the human face of a war that, if it ever had a purpose, has now become completely pointless. To underscore this, we are told that after six years of bleeding and dying, the Korangal Outpost has now been surrendered to the Taliban. A deeply moving film, Restrepo becomes twice as poignant with the knowledge that one of the directors, Tim Hetherington, was killed in Libya only in the last month. We owe him and his co-director an enormous debt of gratitude.
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A closeup of US soldiers fighting in Afghanistan
Chris Knipp5 May 2010
'One platoon, one year, one valley' goes this documentary's impressive slogan. Such concentrated focus is truly a selling point. This is vivid, intense, unvarnished stuff, and the two filmmakers won the Grand Jury Prize for documentary at Sundance this year for their troubles. Hetherington also won World Press Photo of the Year 2007 for an image of one of the soldiers resting at Restrepo, an outpost named after medic Juan Restrepo, one of their first casualties upon arriving at this dangerous place of daily combat, Afghanistan's Korangal Valley. The two embedded journalists, Sebastian Junger (of 'The Perfect Storm,' with a contract from Vanity Fair for coverage) and distinguished British war photographer Tim Hetherington, are both filming the platoon off and on all through its 15-month deployment. They don't analyze or look at a wider context. They're in effect in the foxholes, where there are no atheists, and this time no military strategists either. What they show, and show well, is the camaraderie of this American Army unit, the Second Platoon, Battle Company, 173rd Airborne Brigade, their bravery, hard work, humor, and love of one another, and, less emphatic but also constant, a deteriorating relationship with the local citizenry. If you are going to make a narrative feature about how contemporary American soldiers in daily combat look and act, this is a good place to go, and the images are superb, and bravely shot, at the cost of physical injury and at the risk of getting shot like the soldiers. The film has no structure other than the actions of the platoon, their two big projects being building OP Restrepo, a 15-man outpost above the outpost that restricted the enemy's movements, and a foray dubbed Operation Rock Avalanche, during which the troops came under the heaviest fire; some of them still have nightmares from Avalanche.

The Korangal Valley is a scene in the middle of nowhere with no escape, as the soldiers saw it on arrival -- a place of multiple daily engagements with a hidden enemy. Strategically, this place seems like it was useless. The Korangal Outpost was closed in 2009 after six years, hundreds of US wounded, and 50 US soldiers dead (and heavier losses on the less well-equipped Afghan side). Some US military actually think the Korangal Outpost -- and the outpost of the outpost, O.P. Restrepo where most of the action takes place -- only increased local sympathy for the Taliban.

This is one "context" thing we get a glimpse of, because the film shows moments from a few of the weekly "shuras" when the platoon leader, Captain Keaney, met with local "elders," scrawny men of indeterminate age, often with brightly hennaed beards. He swears at them freely (safe, since they don't know English) and replies unceremoniously to their complaints. He's a combat officer, not a negotiator. At one point one of the locals' cows gets caught up in concertina wire (we do not see this) and the troops have to kill it (and eat it, from what we hear, and a very tasty meal it was). Elders come specially to complain about this, and demand a payment for the lost animal of four or five hundred dollars. Permission is refused for this from higher command and the elders leave with only the promise of rice and grain matching the weight of the cow. It looks as if the Afghans lose face in these "shuras," but the Americans don't gain anything.

Of course there is the inevitable clash when the Americans push so close they kill some Afghan civilians and wound some children. As with all wars against partisans or insurgents, the locals are all implicated. Captain Keaney is chagrined. But the captain -- he and a handful of the soldiers are shown interviewed later throughout the film, commenting on the experience and the platoon's major projects during the deployment -- is proud of the job they did, nonetheless. They gave the enemy a harder time than their predecessors. OP Restrepo, their initiative, gave them a strategic advantage in the valley. And the men were brave, even when they were scared, and they' were kind and loyal to each other.

'Restrepo' illustrates the Chris Hedges line that opens Kathryn Bigelow's similarly intense, visceral, but unanalytical fiction film, 'The Hurt Locker,' "The rush of battle is often a potent and lethal addiction, for war is a drug." Soldiers are shown hooting with excitement and saying that being fired upon is "better than crack," and they don't know if they can go back to civilian life after living day to day with such an adrenalin rush as the Konragal Valley and Operation Rock Avalance gave them.

The festival enthusiasm is not the end of it because 'Restrepo' will be broadcast globally by National Geographic. But, reviewing the film at Sundance, Variety reviewer John Anderson argues, with some reason, that this documentary "needs a story, much like the war. The roaring lack of public interest in what the U.S. is doing in Afghanistan is largely due to a failure of storytelling: Tell us what it's about, and then we'll care." Will we? What the story of the US in Afghanistan looks like is being stuck in one place, fighting a pointless war, on varying pretexts, in impossible conditions, like Vietnam. Here we don't see the drugs and demoralization of Vietnam, though they may be there. The interviews give only a glimpse or two of the damage this deployment did on the 29 or so men -- as well as of what a very fine bunch of men they are. Michael Levine, the film's editor, who cut Venditti's great little doc 'Billy the Kid,' deserves much credit for bringing some order to a wealth of chaotic material.

Seen at the San Francisco International Film Festival.
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Superb documentary chronicling combat soldiers at lone outpost in unwinnable war
Turfseer21 February 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Restrepo is the superb documentary created by journalist Sebastian Junger and photographer Tim Hetherington, who followed a platoon of approximately 35 American soldiers for approximately a year in the Korengal Valley in eastern Afghanistan beginning in the spring of 2007. The film's creators did not seek to make any political statements but merely followed this group of soldiers in their day to day activities embedded at a lone outpost they end up dubbing 'Restrepo'.

Restrepo refers to one of the platoons' fellow soldiers who is killed early on in their assignment. The Korengal Valley was the most heavily infested area by the Taliban when the Americans got there. The main outpost, KOP (Korengal Outpost) is set up and then the Restrepo platoon must set up their own outpost about a half mile away. That's no easy job as the platoon must get there first and set up the outpost while being bombarded constantly by Taliban artillery.

One of the fascinating aspects of 'Restrepo' are the weekly meetings that the platoon have with the village elders. The platoon leader offers them the possibility that the Army can help build up their infrastructure in the future but also hopes they might cooperate in leading them to where the Taliban are hiding. The elders are more interested in preventing the indiscriminate deaths of civilians during American bombing campaigns. One particularly revealing scene occurs when the platoon leader questions a young man they suspect of having Taliban connections and he tells them if he does reveal where the Taliban might be, they will come back and kill him. 'Restrepo' also unflinchingly reveals the aftermath of a bombing campaign on Taliban positions. The platoon leader communicates his frustration (and perhaps anguish) over the innocent civilians who end up victims of American bombs (weapons, however, are found in the victims' home and it appears they are either shielding the Taliban or forced by them to harbor their soldiers).

After awhile, one is wondering if the platoon is merely going to remain at OP Restrepo for the duration of the campaign or take the fight directly to the enemy. The platoon leader informs the troops that if they don't go on the offensive, it's likely the enemy will attack them first. Perhaps the most gut wrenching scene in 'Restrepo' is 'Rock Avalanche'--the platoon's mission to move directly into the middle of the insurgents' territory and try and root them out. One of the toughest soldiers is killed during this operation and we see during the battle, how one particular soldier, can't help himself from continually sobbing.

Interviews are also conducted with some of the men after they leave Afghanistan, in Italy. Each man has a different story to tell and each of the interviews in their own right, are fascinating. One amusing vignette was one of the soldiers talking about his parents who he described as peace-loving hippies. There's another soldier who continually smiles during the interview while talking about some of the horrible events he witnessed—it struck me that the inappropriate smiling was a defense mechanism, preventing him from addressing deep-seated emotions of rage and sorrow. Still another amazing interview was the description of how another particular soldier survived after being wounded during combat.

Whether one agrees with the war or not, I think there's no doubt that the members of OP Restrepo were extremely professional in the way they conducted themselves during the war and who managed at the same time to maintain a great camaraderie with one another.

'Restrepo' brings up mixed feelings as to the necessity of our presence in Afghanistan. As Mr. Junger, the film's co-creator points out, since NATO and the US have been in Afghanistan, the number of casualties are much, much less than when the Taliban were in charge of the country. And despite failing to root out the Taliban, the mere presence of the Americans in the Korengal Valley, provided some measure of stability, preventing the Taliban from returning and terrorizing the local population. On the other hand, how the US Army expects the local population to cooperate with them in giving up Taliban positions, is absurd. The locals know damn well that the Army will not remain there forever and if they do speak to the Americans, they know the Taliban can at anytime return and kill them. It would take over a million troops (with massive casualties) to actually defeat the Taliban. Hence, the Americans are really fighting an unwinnable war. Is it any accident that we never see one Taliban soldier during the filming of this entire documentary? The height of irony is when we find out at the end of 'Restrepo', that the US left the Korengal Valley in 2010!

Given the vast amount of footage the films' creators ended up with, the editing job on this film should be regarded as nothing short of remarkable. 'Restrepo' is one of the finest documentaries about soldiers in combat ever made and deserves all the accolades heaped upon it.
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meeza20 May 2011
Co-Directors Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger's gripping Oscar- nominated documentary "Restrepo" does not rest in exhibiting a US Army platoon in deployment fighting for their lives and their country in a deadly valley in Afghanistan. And that valley happens to be one of the most dangerous places on earth, the Korengal Valley; which is inhabited by a Taliban ready to maliciously strike American soldiers at any cause. These Taliban scumbags even put their wives and sons for cover when confronted by American soldiers in battle so the Americans can cease fire. Hetherington and Junger spent a year with the platoon in the Korengal Valley depicting the soldiers' lives in a treacherous land. The platoon build an outpost in the Korengal called OP Restrepo, named after Juan "Doc" Restrepo; who was a soldier in their platoon who unfortunately was killed in the line of fire early during their deployment. And of course, who the documentary was also named after. Juan "Doc" Restrepo was a Columbian-American who grew up in Pembroke Pines, located in South Florida. The documentary's first scene shows a confident and bit tipsy Restrepo filming his platoon mates and himself with a hand-held camera in an Italian train, just weeks before their deployment. Hetherington and Junger don't shy away in filming low points of a soldier's daily life in rigorous battlegrounds in "Restrepo". Those scenes provoke an even greater appreciation in admiring our soldiers. Moreover, it made me want to slap myself silly why in the world I got ticked off at that driver that cut me off this afternoon. I hope you know the point I am driving at. Hetherington and Junger also interview the soldiers a year after their Korengal tour-of-duty; and through their retelling of the Korengal nightmare, it actually becomes the documentary's primary narration in a documentary that has no voice-over narration. "Restrepo" is very difficult to watch at times because of the profound authenticity of it all, but nevertheless should be watched by all, especially teenagers. Not so much to invoke the "war is hell" message to teens but to provide them a humane appreciation lesson. Sadly enough, Tim Hetherington was recently killed in Libya while filming conflict there. Hetherington was an acclaimed photojournalist besides being a documentarian. As a brave solider, he also risked his life for his country; but he did it in order for individuals to get a clearer picture on the atrocities of modern-day war. And like Juan "Doc" Restrepo and other brave soldiers who risk their lives for their country, Tim will not be forgotten, and neither should his co-directed documentary "Restrepo". **** Good
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No Man's Land
st-shot16 November 2018
Director/cameramen Tim Huntington and Sebastian Junger get the audience close to the action of the present day war in Afghanistan as they hunker down with the Second Platoon from the 503rd Infantry for a year in a desolate mountainous outpost named after a fallen medic, Doc Restrepo. Interspersed with interviews after the fact the film is a sober recounting and acknowledgement of something that does not affect the everyday American, a war only a portion of the country is fighting.

Junger and Hetherington document the danger, boredom, bonding and humor with an objective eye putting caution to the wind as they put themselves in harm's way swivelling their cameras about during firefights or snaking about the outpost under attack. Hethington would eventually be killed while making another documentary on the war in 2011.

Restrepo is to the Afghanistan war what the Anderson Platoon was to Viet Nam. A grim and suspenseful account of men in conflict in some far flung outpost trying to survive in the most hostile of situations not only physically but emotionally as well. Junger and Hethington do a great service by providing vivid documentation of the pain and fog of war which should be required viewing for those of us who are far from or choose to ignore the courage and sacrifice of our military. It offers no answers to the conflict, just provides vivid witness to the confusion and nature of man at war that makes for powerful viewing.
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Restrepo !!!
estebangonzalez1019 February 2011
¨My personal low point? - Rock Avalanche, I saw a lot of professional tough guys go weak in the knees.¨ Restrepo is one of the five pictures nominated for Best Documentary at the Oscars and it also won the Grand Jury Prize in the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. It's beautifully directed and filmed by Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger (writer of The Perfect Storm). The huge success of this film and what separates it from the hundreds of other war pictures is that Junger puts us right in the middle of the action without any political agenda. He simply decides to film these groups of soldiers who have been deployed to one of the most dangerous locations in Afghanistan and lets us experience their day to day lives without making any pro or anti war comments. We are allowed to see a small glimpse of what the American soldiers have to go through and how they live amongst the villagers. In a way Junger allows the soldiers being filmed to tell their own story. We experience what they are going through in this dangerous war zone and how they interact with the local people. The cinematography is actually quite astonishing and I really felt like I was there with the soldiers. Restrepo made me appreciate even more last year's Oscar winning picture: The Hurt Locker, because it showed me how real that film actually was. At one point one of the soldiers even claims that no rush is as high as being shot at in the middle of a war zone. War can be addictive and it actually is for some soldiers.

The camera silently follows an American platoon that is being deployed to one of the most dangerous war zones in Afghanistan known as the Korangal Valley for a period of 15 months during 2007. The film begins while the platoon is arriving at the base and some of the soldiers share their thoughts about beginning their service in such a dangerous zone. We follow these soldiers as they live in tents in the middle of a valley where danger is eminent. They have to experience gun fights almost every day, and at the same time they have to adapt to the environment. When they are not fighting, we see the soldiers digging for protection; we see them burning their own feces, and just goofing around while they wait for next gunfight to take place. A day without action is nonexistent in the Korangal Valley. It is during one of these gunfights that one of the soldiers is mortally wounded, his name was Restrepo and the rest of the soldiers decide to build a resistance camp named O.P. Restrepo on his behalf. Restrepo changed the entire mood of the soldiers and they were ready to have their revenge. At the same time that the soldiers have to fight off the Taliban they also try to improve their relations with the locals who have a difficult time accepting the Americans (especially after they kill one of their cows).

The movie isn't pro or anti war; it simply places the camera in the middle of the action and lets us experience what is going on. No one's opinion about War is going to change: those who favor Americans involvement in Afghanistan will still do so after watching this documentary and those who don't will still feel the same because the directors don't try to manipulate us into thinking the way they do. There aren't any personal opinions about politics or war; it's all about experiencing what these soldiers have to go through every day whether or not they actually understand what they are fighting for. Some of my favorite parts of the documentary were the scenes where the Captain meets with the local villagers and tries to make allies out of them and the Rock Avalanche operation. The Captain really doesn't have a clue of the way the villagers think and goes the wrong way about trying to convince them to help the Americans. The Rock Avalanche Operation was really intense and was the climatic point of the film. I really loved the interviews with the soldiers with the camera closing-up on their faces (The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly style). Restrepo is a really good and memorable documentary that will stay with you for days. It is only 90 minutes long so it is really worth your time.
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Tim Hetherington's Legacy
valleyjohn27 April 2011
Exactly 7 days ago British director Tim Hetherington died in Libya from an RPG while working . Respeto will be his legacy.

This is an eye opening documentary film which follows an American platoon for a year in the most dangerous area of Afghanistan - The Korangal Valley. We see the toll the Afghan war takes on a group of young men who have been put in a near impossible position thanks to a bunch of oil greedy politicians. You get to see how close these men get to dying thanks to some fantastic and brave camera work. There are some very upsetting moment as the platoon lose men along the way and Innocent Afghanistan women and children die in the crossfire. How these , or any other men can put themselves through this is beyond me but they have my total respect despite my thought that we should never be in this unwinnable war. 90% of this movie is real footage where the other 10% are interviews with the soldiers. Restrepo is a superb documentary and it's a crying shame that we will never see this directors work again. Tim Hetherington R.I P
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They take fire every single day.
lastliberal-853-25370827 February 2011
The worst outpost in Afghanistan. They take fire every single day. Can this be fixed?

Sebastian Junger, author of The Perfect Storm, in his directorial debut, won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival for this film, and is in the running for an Oscar tonight. He presented a film about life and death and fear in a way that makes you feel like you are there.

What I found most appealing was watching the efforts of the Captain to work with the Afghans to keep them from supporting the Taliban coming in from Pakistan to kill his soldiers.

Equally important to understanding the sacrifice of these soldiers is watching them come back after losses. "Say a few prayers and move on."

One cannot watch this film without recalling those words from St. Crispen's Day: "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he to-day that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother"
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