Restrepo (2010) Poster


User Reviews

Review this title
62 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
A heart-wrenching documentary
KnightsofNi1118 February 2011
This is where documentary filmmaking becomes serious. Whatever you are expecting out of this film, chances are you will get a whole lot more. Restrepo follows a platoon of soldiers in Afghanistan who are defending a valley, Korgengal. It is said to be one of the most dangerous valleys in the entire country and these brave men take fire every single day of their brutal campaign. This is a riveting film and it is one of those that you cannot shake. It gives you a glance into the absolute darkest depths of modern warfare and just how demanding the fighting is both physically and mentally. It is a film that gives you a rare look into the horrors of war. And it is absolutely astounding.

Restrepo is shot at a very personal level. The camera never intrudes on the soldiers during their work, and thank God considering some of the harrowing things they go through in this movie. This film hardly even feels like a documentary in the sense of what we think of documentary today. It is filled with interviews, but the bulk of the movie is truly documenting the lives of these soldiers. We get to see all sides of the emotional spectrum that can be afflicted through trauma. We get to look at how different people cope with such horrors as are experienced in this film. And it is all through such respectful eyes. I never once thought, 'Wow, they should really stop filming this.' Every moment of the film feels so important and the fact that all this was so clearly and eloquently caught on camera is astounding.

The unequivocally greatest thing about this film is the fact that it has absolutely no political agenda. It really has no alternative motive other than telling the story of these incredibly brave soldiers. The film only seeks to honor the brave men who served our country in the most dangerous area imaginable. This film isn't for the political leaders responsible for the war. It isn't for the military commanders that send these soldiers into battle. This movie is for the soldiers themselves. It is a true soldier's film in every sense. It has a very stern focus on the individual. It makes such an important point out of this aspect that it could have possibly gone even further. There are a lot of men in this platoon and thus we don't get to know any one person particularly well. We get to know the platoon well as a whole and how each man interacts with his fellow soldiers and how they all deal with loss and tragedy. Each individual soldier in this movie is important and the movie strives to show how meaningful that is. It is a remarkably important aspect of the film.

You won't see many documentaries like this, and there's probably a good reason for this. The kind of footage captured in Restrepo isn't easy to get and you have to be just as brave as the soldiers themselves if you are to accompany them into battle to document their bravery. But thankfully when the opportunity to get such unforgettable footage arose, it was all put together extremely well. This is not an easy film to watch, but in the end it is so remarkably worth it.
35 out of 40 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Stop and Think About It
bobt1456 January 2011
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.
56 out of 62 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
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.
41 out of 52 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
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.
73 out of 95 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
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
23 out of 29 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Shooting Hell
proterozoic19 March 2011
How does a soft, liberal-arts civilian like me even approach a document like "Restrepo"? I don't give myself to blind, reflexive worship of the military; before, I have reviewed "Taxi to the Dark Side," an investigation into some chilling crimes committed by individuals in the armed forces, almost surely with the knowledge and approval of their superiors. This, however, is a film, shot by two insane journalists who spent a year with American Army troops in Afghanistan's Korangal valley, and it portrays men who are different from the rest of us in that they have faced and survived the impossible.

Outpost Restrepo was named after a beloved comrade killed in action, and it was dug and fortified under constant enemy gunfire. The Taliban just hated giving up the position, and the men describe how they would dig for several minutes, then be forced to pick up their weapons and return fire, and after the gunfight died down, go right back to digging. The outpost is only several hundred meters from a larger base, but in case of an attack, support might as well be stationed in Germany.

The all-seeing documentarians capture the men's brutal physical labor under a constant state of siege and barely-adequate resupply, until violence and discomfort become life's permanent background. The soldiers are forced to go on regular patrols through the countryside, tracking the progress of development projects and trying to build trust among the locals, whose allegiances are never clear. If they are only listening with one ear, if they're only out to hedge their bets between the fighting sides, who can blame them?

The film culminates in an account of a firefight during an offensive called "Rock Avalanche" – words that the testifying soldiers cannot say without a shudder. The mission consists of the men being loudly airdropped on a hilltop and moving around valleys and mountains until attacked by the Taliban. They push onwards, trying not to think which step will finally trigger the inevitable ambush. The ambush occurs; the live footage cuts out, and for several minutes, we follow the brutal firefight only through the soldiers' testimony. It is gut-wrenching. The pain and terror of the men who return fire without knowing which of their fellows are still alive and if they themselves will live for another minute are suffocating. Then, the footage is back, and we see a private wailing like a child over the dead body of the unit's favorite commander. If this can happen to the best among us, he says, what chance do the rest of us have?

It is an astonishing thing to contemplate, but even at the end of so much hostile fire, the Americans have the better deal. The young men who passed through the trials are scarred and damaged by their experience, but they knew the date when it would end, and the bird was there to take the survivors back to a better life. The local Afghans' pain has no end. Frightened, grimy faces peer out of gashes in dirt walls. Children hide their eyes, dressed in scraps of their grandparents' clothes. The doorways of their mud shacks open into black pits – even in midday, the sun is unable to dispel the darkness. The village elders are a sight from another millennium – gnarly, weather-beaten, half-decayed faces that seem to have been chopped out of rotting tree trunks. You could easily give every one of them a couple of centuries, but who knows? They may still be in their thirties. I've had some rough years as a child of the third world, but I can't imagine even a tenth of what these people go through in their lives.

So many excellent films have come out of our latest painful conflicts – "Restrepo," "Generation Kill," "Taxi to the Dark Side," "Gunner Palace"… Almost all of them have been financial failures. Who wants to spend ten dollars to get depressed and emotionally drained? What exactly are we supposed to feel at the end of "Restrepo"? Not hope. Maybe futility, weariness and an incredible desire to think about something else.

I wondered if the place I saw in "Restrepo" really exists on the same planet as the Metropolitan Opera. Will its misery ever end?
57 out of 67 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
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.
21 out of 26 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
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.
31 out of 53 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
And I thought "The Hurt Locker" & "...Private Ryan" were intense.
Deckard-168 December 2010
After living (because "experiencing" is too weak a word here) this film for the last 2 & 1/2 hours (the DVD extras are equal to the feature) I will not be able to see another combat film for a very very long time.

What Sebastian Junger & Tim Hetherington have captured with this doc may be the final word about soldiers in combat & their thoughts afterword.

Afghanistan has been called a place "where dynasties go to die". The men shown here mostly don't give a flying f**k about history or politics. All they are concerned about is getting one day closer to the end of their 15 month deployment in the most dangerous on Earth AND the guys on either side of them.

This is most clear-eyed view of fighting I've seen since (the excellent) "Gunner Palace". Junger/Hetherington put their own asses on the line getting their footage & wisely kept completely out of their own picture. It drags at times because it shows that fighting is about burning their own human waste, building dirt barriers & killing time before the next kill --a kill they rarely see. The interviews interlaced among the field footage are as riveting as the fighting.

BUT make no mistake the fighting is as hellaciously intense as "Black Hawk Down" & "...Ryan". However J/H pull back from the gore. There are PG-13 movies which are more graphic in their violence. The real "graphic" parts of this film are the emotions in the faces & the eyes of the men. Sometimes it is difficult to figure out what comes first: the man inside or the soldier outside.

Buy the DVD. The extras are huge.
28 out of 43 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Forward Outpost Restrepo
ronan411-476-13685427 September 2013
I completely disagree with the above review. If the Junger and Hetherington want to make a documentary - they are perfectly entitled to make it the way they see fit, and if they chose not to become the immersed in politics of the conflict then so be it. If you want to see that kind of documentary - switch on the History Channel any night of the week. The viewer gets right into the action in 'Restrepo' with the soldiers and it has given many a young person second thoughts about joining the military. That in itself is praise enough for this awesome documentary on man's inhumanity to man. The action shots are superb and real - you do not want any of the soldiers to be hurt because you get to know them as the film progresses.
5 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Thugs vs. thugs (war summed up)
AJ4F1 May 2011
It wasn't boring, but this just wasn't a movie I could get inspired or awed by. For the most part, I found the demeanor of the soldiers a lot like inner city toughs playing out their regular lives with an exotic backdrop.

I actually think this movie LACKED violence, which it needed more of to get its "shock value" across. Lots of gunfire scenes but only brief, sanitized glimpses of war carnage, which would have really shocked the audience. I don't recall seeing any incoming fire except for an explosion on the road near the beginning. For all the "heavy fire" they took daily, there wasn't a whole lot of footage.

Then there were the macro-pore closeup interviews with the usual "it was bad over there, man...really bad" dialog. I'm not making light of their pain but none of it seemed like new territory in a documentary.

I wasn't impressed by crude references to a ranch where all you really do is shoot wildlife, a kid calling his mother a (bleep'n) hippie, and similar low-brow stuff. I'm not knocking the bravery of the volunteer army, but it makes these foreign conflicts seem not much different than turf wars in American ghettos. The Taliban are probably the equivalent of U.S. gangsters over there. Dull-eyed people creating trouble out of thin air for the most part, over greed and ego. "It's been going on for ten thousand years" says an old song.

"Restrepo" reminded me of what's wrong with the whole human race; the lack of foresight and thoughtfulness, with a shoot first, ask questions later mentality. I am weary of those who say "we're just doing our job" without seriously (as nations) questioning the futility of warfare and all the lives that end up being wasted just so similar conflicts can arise again somewhere else.
24 out of 46 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
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.
2 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
interesting reporting? yes. award-winning documentary? no.
prestonloyola27 December 2010
It's a sad commentary on contemporary journalism that a film like Restrepo can win a prestigious award like the Grand Jury 2010 Sundance Best Documentary Award. Basically, the film-makers embed themselves with a US platoon in Afghanistan, document the experience, and intersperse interviews of some of the soldiers (taken after the period in question) throughout. There's no attempt to place the events in a larger context, no narrative to tie anything with the policy decisions taken in Washington, all we get is a raw "life in Afghanistan" seen through the eyes of soldiers on the ground in a single location. Don't get me wrong, it is quite interesting to actually see some of what is going on the ground in Afghanistan, after the thousands of hours of TV punditry and miles of newspaper column inches that media heads have filled with opinions, debates, tirades and justifications of the so called "war on terror". But this is the kind of reporting that should be omnipresent in our media, something you might see in a segment on 60 minutes, or some other outlet for investigative journalism (of which there are fewer and fewer).

Unfortunately, as we know, investigative journalism is expensive, and has dramatically been cut down in our age of media mega mergers. It's a lot cheaper to stick a few people around a table to mouth off on TV (and then cover the debate in the print media), then it is to ship true journalists across the globe (and around the centers of power in the US) who are not afraid to stir things up and take on the powers that be.

And so something like Restrepo - which is a bog standard journalistic piece - becomes an award winning documentary film. Examples of the kind of items that might be included in a wider scope documentary film worthy of awards: - Restrepo like footage in multiple locations in Afghanistan - similar footage of the other side (Taliban/AlQaeda or whomever is actually doing the fighting) with interviews on the reasons - interviews with the policy makers in DC explaining what the policies are and why, what they are trying to achieve - compare these goals with what is going on the ground - facts and figures about how much money is being spent on the war (compare to how much is being spent on Afghan aid), start digging into which corporations are making the most profit out of it - look at the cozy ties between retired DoD personnel and defense contractors etc, etc, etc you can just keep pulling at strings forever really... Tie everything into a cohesive narrative, maybe start actually providing answers to the still unanswered question of what we are actually still doing in Afghanistan, and maybe we would have an important documentary film worthy of an award. But a context free year in the life of a US platoon - sorry guys, that just doesn't cut it.
37 out of 70 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
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
5 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
War Is Terrifying.
DucDeRichleau13 September 2019
Watching this is about as real as it can get.Well apart from the sheer terror of actually being there.Heart in mouth documentary about basically a lot of kids thrown into a mad,crazy and very scary situation. Knowing any second could be their last. Powerful stuff.Makes you realize how brave ANYONE who puts a uniform on and goes into a life or death battle situation really is. Fighting a (for the most part) unseen enemy in THEIR own backyard is a hard task. IF you didn't have respect for the armed forces you will have after watching this.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
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
3 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
slice of life war documentary
HEFILM26 June 2010
Recent (say in the last ten years) Fiction films about war, BLACK HAWK DOWN for example, have taken the same approach this films takes. The men are men doing a "job" and earn our respect on that level. The fact they do "the job" is what earns our respect. The fact that War isn't your usual job is not questioned, not by the filmmakers or by the men doing the job.

Part of the job is not to question the job and you don't do a lot of debating while you're either hiding or shooting to save your own life. That's more of a Hollywood idea of war than reality anyway it would seem.

This keeps the film from being political, so doesn't alienate people who are pro or con to the specific war the movie might be about.

So this fits into our modern war film approach comfortably on that level. Does it need more than a slice of life approach to be fascinating and tension filled? Not really, if it's done well enough and this film is very well done. The men interviewed talk about being disturbed but they way they talk is real, one guy who can't really sleep at all since actually smiles through his this part of his interview, hiding his horror behind telling something he finds embarrassing. This is so different than the "acted" stories of war we get in movies traditionally and such.

Could the film have let us know some history to the valley the men are stuck in or try to let us in tactically a little more from a distance. Probably could have, though bits of this are filled in by the troops as they are the new group in the area and some past mistakes haunt them and they repeat some of those same mistakes. War isn't really a clean job after all or a nice one.

The central battle has very little footage, obviously the cameramen were hiding for their lives so that section is a series of very very close up talking heads, the professionally detached talking heads of those involved and their armor does crack as they get into it, the little actual footage of the battle shows the real raw reactions.

This is making the best of a bad situation for the filmmakers, but it does rob us the horrid experience of the initial attack.

No enemy dead are shown at all in the film, only some collateral damage victims. This, it could be argued, is slanted a bit from the filmmakers point of view, or of course is just a limitation of their "embedded" status with their troops. Perhaps, the film suggests, they rarely see the enemy up close in this particular valley fight. Perhaps, but they aren't shown for whatever reason. Likewise there is scant footage of some of those U.S. troops who die when they are alive. This does also take away some emotional connection. And frankly when everyone wears the same uniform and has the same haircut it does get confusing at a few points as to who is who.

Some of the footage is very crudely recorded, shaky/grainy to a distracting degree--to be expected, but don't sit too close in the theater. It's edited and assembled very well, if there is/are movie tricks, and certainly there are, in terms of "faking" reaction shots or re-ordering events to make it more dramatic---it's seamlessly done. It all feels honest.

It's a very very good slice of life and puts you there with the men. And though very young they do mostly come off as men. That's all it does and it does it perfectly. There is no "ulimate" film on this war because, of course it's still going on. This film would seem to suggest that it's not going to end with us, "on top" but it doesn't say one way or the other. If you want to see our volunteer army in action in one specific area for one year, there hasn't been anything better previous to this film or in any of the Iraq movies, docu and fiction, done so far.
11 out of 25 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The tragedy of war.
ihrtfilms22 February 2011
Director Sebastian Junger spent over a year embedded with the Second Platoon, Battle company, 173rd Airborne Brigade, to them their full title, as they are posted to the Korangal Valley in Afghanistan. CNN declared the area the most dangerous place on the planet and the documentary highlights the dangers of the mission.

Filmed in Cinéma vérité style, there is little construct to the film as such as it follows the men as they head deeper into the valley and further into danger. Interspersed with the footage are talking heads with some of the troops recalling their time there. The Korangal is a a Taliban stronghold and the Brigade are under constant threat of attack, in fact the very opening scene shows them ambushed on the road. This constant fear of attack shows among the men during the talking heads, it is clear that the mission, one fraught with dangers has taken a heavy toll on the psyche's of these men, some of them incredibly young.

Several of the soldiers die, which also takes it's toll, especially later in the film when they delve deeper into the hills and are attacked unexpectedly, with one of their men down, there is a incomprehensible notion that you should grieve, yet you must continue to battle as the gunfire around you continues.

The film as been portrayed as a 'real life' The Hurt Locker', which seems a little unfair a comparison, both film portray different situations and to be honest I felt this was actually less engaging. With so many soldiers, it's difficult to know who is who during some footage and so it less compelling trying to work out who is who. There are however scenes of interest. The continual passion within to keep going these men have is incredible, even in the most dire of circumstances. Interactions with locals provide an insight of how difficult and how vastly different the cultures are, and there are scenes of camaraderie and fun among the men to try to make the best of what they have- dancing to pop songs and filming it.

Yet it also shows just what an alien world the armed forces are to many, it is a different world and it also suggests that many men there are there only because they no choice, a living with a guarantee wage and no guarantee of coming back alive or intact, physically or mentally. The talking head interviews provide a greater insight into those few that are interviewed; behind the stiff upper lip and possible reserve of what may be said on camera, there is pain behind the eyes of these men that no-one else will comprehend. It's this I found more interesting and it's a shame there wasn't a little more of it which would have made this more powerful.

More of my reviews at
6 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
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.)
4 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An outstanding documentary!...
ajs-101 December 2010
I have heard many good reports about this documentary recently and so I was surprised when it turned up on TV only a few months after its release. Of course it was immediately put into the planner and subsequently recorded for a viewing. It's well worth a watch if you can catch it, really compelling and pretty scary in places too! I guess I'd better tell you what it's about first (summary haters please wait back at 'The Kop' for the duration of the next paragraph).

This film tells the story of the Second Platoon and their fifteen month deployment in one of Afghanistan's most strategically crucial valleys, Korangal. Their main base is called 'The Kop', but they need an outpost which they build and name 'Restrepo' after a soldier, Doc Restrepo, who was killed early in the film. The main focus of the film is on the soldiers and their day-to-day battle against the Taliban. But it also gives us an insight into the lives of the soldiers and what motivates them to do what they do.

I really enjoyed this film, it has many highs and lows, but over all it gives an fascinating insight into the American operations in Afghanistan. If I have one criticism, it's that it did tend to get a little repetitive. But I can forgive that, it's an outstanding documentary, at times you feel like you're another member of the platoon fighting alongside them. Hats off to those guys and also to the filmmakers. Highly recommended.

My score: 8.2/10
6 out of 14 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
American propaganda movie
schar_law6 December 2010
I actually thought that this will be an objective movie about the war in Afganistan, but it turned out to be just another documentary that glorifies American stupid wars. In the end of the film there is a note that 50 American soldiers died in this valley - I wonder how many local people they killed while they were there. I bet a lot more. And, what is the most stupid is that after all this, they retreated from the valley so even their money driven goal was not achieved. I'm afraid that this will turn out to be the scenario for the whole war in Afganistan - politicians and big companies made a lot of money, a lot of innocent of people killed and all for "protecting the land of the free and fake democracy"!
67 out of 137 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
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.
2 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
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.
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Succinct Sixteen
unclesamsavage22 August 2021
Aggravating to uncover combat leadership's outlook and their relations with locals but enlightening all the same.

Screenplay...................................... 7 / 10 Interviews........................................ 9 Visuals................................................ 10 Sound................................................... 6 Editing................................................ 6 Timeless Utility................................. 7 Total.................................................... 45 / 60 = 7.5 (which I rounded to 7) Verdict................................................. Informative / Recommended watch.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
not really worth watching
niel-drummond19 December 2010
A very monotonous view of the battle in Afghanistan.

If you don't mind watching plenty of interviews with immature soldiers facing the reality of modern warfare, this is your film. Sadly, the film is neither grim, nor funny, nor bloody, or anything more than a mediocre documentary.

The film does illustrate how inept the American forces are at negotiation, and the overwhelming emphasis on heavy weapons and air power. Possibly, it could entertain the pride of a nationalistic American, but to the vast majority of the rest of the world, it simply portrays the Americans as expensive buffoons.
39 out of 78 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews

Recently Viewed