(Images courtesy Outpost Films)
"Our idea was...let's make the most visceral war film you've ever seen."
So said photojournalist Tim Hetherington, who partnered with author/journalist Sebastian Junger to create the Sundance-award winning documentary Restrepo, which delivers what's sure to be the most nerve-racking viewing experience of the year so far. Inception plays like a Saturday morning cartoon in comparison. If Restrepo isn't the most visceral war film we've ever seen, it's at least the most visceral movie about the war in Afghanistan that we've yet seen, and the most insightful documentary on the 21st-century soldier's experience since The War Tapes (which, along with the disappointing Gunnar Palace, comprise the few films that actually feature soldiers and not actors).
Pro-war, anti-war, McChrystal, Wikileaks, whatever. The talking heads and the rest of the U.S. should stop shouting and hand-wringing for a moment to witness what's actually happening on the ground, or at least was in 2007-08. Restrepo follows the deployment of a dozen or so brave American infantrymen from Second Platoon, Battle Company, of the 173rd Airborne, who spent more than a year in Afghanistan's deadly Korengal Valley. The reasons to see this documentary are as numerous as the opinions about what the U.S. is doing in Afghanistan (i.e., the "graveyard of empires"); suffice to say you don't have much business in a conversation about the latter until you've seen the former.