Thursday, December 23, 2010

Restrepo DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: DVD Chronicles Grim Reality of Afghan War

This riveting documentary about the Afghan War was shot by co-directors with a death wish Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington. The pair embedded themselves with a 15-man, U.S. military unit stationed at a remote outpost in the Korengal Valley from May 2007 to July 2008.
Chinook helicopter was the only way in or out of their godforsaken encampment which was located in Eastern Afghanistan near the border with Pakistan, a safe haven for terrorists. Thus, the region was teeming with Taliban who attacked the American camp on a daily basis from the 10,000’ high mountain peaks surrounding the GIs.
Among the soldiers in the platoon was medic Juan “Doc” Restrepo who seemed almost giddy during an interview at the outset of their dangerous deployment. “We’re going to war!” he’s shown chirping almost gleefully. Sadly, he was also the first to be killed by the enemy, and soon after their arrival. So, his buddies renamed their makeshift fort Restrepo in honor of their fallen comrade.
Tragically, Doc would not be the last to perish before the troops’ tour of duty ended, and this gritty picture captures not only the sadness, but the fear gradually etched into the faces of the survivors as they days wore on. The fighting gets pretty fierce, with fire often being exchanged at distances close enough to look into the eyes of the enemy and to engage them in hand-to-hand combat.
Understandably, some of the exasperated Americans seemed a little spooked by the Taliban launching wave after wave of seemingly-suicidal zealots desperate to scalp the Yankee infidel. “I feel like a fish in a barrel,” concedes Sergeant Brendan O’Byrne, in assessing their “sitting duck” predicament. But others, like hard-boiled Steiner, seem to relish the kill or be killed aspect of war, calling it “Fun!” and adding, “You can’t get a better high. It’s like crack!”
Such bravado, however, tends to be tempered by sobering moments such as the insomniac who admits to taking five types of sleeping pills. Worse is when Riegel, considered by everybody to be the best soldier in the group, gets his head blown off in the midst of a battle royal. Without pausing to grieve, the guys continue to take it to the Taliban until that all-out attack is finally repelled. “We’re going to die here,” one worried grunt then grunts.
Easily, the most realistic documentary about the War in Afghanistan to date.

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for violence and pervasive profanity.
Running time: 93 Minutes
Distributor: Virgil Films and Entertainment
DVD Extras: Deleted scenes, extended interviews, updates, PSAs, trailers and a photo gallery entitled “Sleeping Soldiers.”

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