Korengal, documentary, not rated, Regal DeVargas, 3 chiles
Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington’s 2010 film Restrepo was the rare war documentary that came without a back story. It didn’t dwell on the origins and or character of the war in Afghanistan begun in 2001. It offered little background on the soldiers we would come to know through the film. Its only context was that which viewers brought to it. Junger and Hetherington took us straight to the most dangerous place in Afghanistan for American soldiers, the mountainous region of the Korengal Valley, and then let us watch as the members of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, Battle Company, went on patrol, met with villagers, and exchanged frequent fire with the enemy located down the mountain and across the valley. Larger questions of purpose and strategy, let alone reasons for establishing an outpost in the far-flung region, were barely discussed. Instead, the daily rigors of survival were the focus. Conditions were grim, crowded, and frequently deadly. The men established a base of holes, tarps, and sandbags on a ridge top and named it for a fellow fighter killed early on, Juan “Doc” Restrepo. The footage was shot over 14 months in 2007 and 2008 and the resulting film earned an Oscar nomination for best feature-length documentary. A moving, engaging, and at times troubling film, Restrepo succeeded in bringing the war home — not just its combat, but the grinding and difficult existence these men experienced at this isolated outpost. It was exactly what those of us at home, so loose with our platitudes about supporting the troops, so ignorant of what they were actually facing, needed to see.