Restrepo doesn’t resemble your standard documentary, in any way. It’s not like other embedded war docs, or voice-over narration films, or movies with a strong personality or clear narrative spine. It’s another animal. UPDATE: The movie is one of the final five Oscar nominees for best documentary, winning out over a crowded and competitive field.
This film dogs you emotionally, messes up your tear ducts. The directors, Vanity Fair contributors Tim Hetherington, a British photographer and cinematographer, and journalist Sebastian Junger (The Perfect Storm), are strapping, manly men. They can hold their own with U.S. soldiers in the toughest mountain terrain. Even they get weepy talking about the movie. What’s the source of its power? The film takes us closer to seeing what men at war go through, what they suffer and lose, and especially in Afghanistan, the futility of it all.
The two men visited the Korangal Valley in Afghanistan ten times, five each, and the footage shows a platoon of army soldiers under almost constant attack from Taliban fighters in the mountains who they never see—until one horrific campaign. That’s when the filmmakers shot footage of a slain soldier which ended up on ABC News. You’ve never seen fighting like this. Ever.
National Geographic Films released the doc this July; it aired on National Geographic Channel in the fall.
UPDATE: The U.S. Army eventually closed the dangerous outpost. And Junger is returning to Afghanistan for Vanity Fair this March, to continue covering the war.