Most helpful critical review
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Never cracked the surface
on June 8, 2012
"Restrepo" is the film that author Sebastian Junger and photojournalist Tim Hetherington took while embedded with the Marines at several forward operations posts on the front lines of the war in Afghanistan. The film combines real time footage with later interviews with the soldiers.
The film makes a poor cousin to Junger's companion book, "War," that covers the same story. The film depicts the same incidents as the book, but with far less context. When certain events occur, such the combat death of a beloved sergeant, the book could recreate the story from bits of memory and experience. But the film, which can't tell a story without film to back it up, cannot. Then too, the strength of the book was in getting into the minds and gut of the men who live under daily fire from their enemies. Unlike actors in a war movie, most soldiers present a plain face to the world, masking the roiling emotions inside. In one case, a young soldier trying to describe how a particular incident has scarred him and given him nightly nightmares tells the tale through a broad (if unconvincing) smile. The most spiritually wounded of soldiers looks the most normal and adjusted.
"Restrepo" is valuable in showing some of the harrowing reality of life at the tip of the America spear. Fighting in the rocky hills and valleys of Afghanistan -- where the loyalty of the locals is uncertain and the ferocity of the Taliban is all too real - is no walk in the park. But the film is woefully inadequate in conveying the mix of dread, loyalty and guts that it takes to be in the front lines of America's wars. Read the book for gut-wrenching realism and watch the movie for the scenery.