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“Hell and Back Again” is a Necessary Nonfiction Version of “The Deer Hunter” for Today’s Veteran

"Hell and Back Again" is a Necessary Nonfiction Version of "The Deer Hunter" for Today's Veteran

One of the best documentaries of the year opened at NYC’s Film Forum today: “Hell and Back Again.” Not only is it a perfect follower to cinematic, embedded Afghanistan War films “Restrepo” and “Armadillo,” it’s arriving in a week in which addressing the war is impossible. I don’t have a full review, but here is the bit I wrote in my latest Doc Talk column at Movies.com:

Danfung Dennis’s Sundance-winning Hell and Back Again, another documentary presenting an embedded look at the Afghanistan War that is just as necessary and cinematic as Restrepo but probably won’t do as well, especially if audiences are reminded of this Friday’s ten-year anniversary of the war’s start. Then again, this may be the time to commemorate and honor the troops by supporting an excellent film document, one which also plays like a nonfiction version of The Deer Hunter, brilliantly structuring the story of a Marine’s homecoming so that the war footage functions like flashback sequences.

And here is what I wrote about the film’s Oscar chances in my post-Sundance column back when Cinematical was still around:

Other than [Project] ‘Nim,’ it is actually quite difficult to determine what else might earn a slot in the Documentary Feature category. Maybe Jury Award winner ‘Hell and Back Again,’ which is another very good doc depicting the war in Afghanistan, but I think it pales a bit compared to this year’s nominee (and 2010 Sundance alum) ‘Restrepo.’

Finally, though there is some redundancy, here’s what I wrote on the film at the Doc Channel Blog:

Rounding out a great group of recent nonfiction films about soldiers fighting in Afghanistan, which includes “Restrepo” and “Armadillo,” this one similarly plays like a narrative drama and is actually structured in a way that warrants comparisons to “The Deer Hunter” (even more than “Where Soldiers Come From”). Directed cinematically by embedded photojournalist Danfung Dennis, the film follows U.S. Marine Sgt. Nathan Harris during his tour in southern Afghanistan, including an intense firefight with the Taliban, and his return home to North Carolina. Dennis cuts back and forth, which makes the war footage function like flashbacks.

“Hell and Back Again” opens today in NYC and expands to LA on October 14.

Recommended If You Like: “Restrepo”; “Armadillo”; “”The Deer Hunter”

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