Directed by Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger
The moment of battle demands of the soldier a simplified moral outlook, an us-vs.-them narrative that denies the enemy his humanity. But that doesn’t mean a wannabe-visceral documentary about an American platoon stationed in The Most Dangerous Region Of Afghanistan needs to celebrate that regrettably necessary worldview. Directed by a pair of Vanity Fair contributors, Restrepo offers a soldier’s-eye view of the quagmire in Korengal, a portrait of fraternity whose production notes brag, “we did not interview Afghans, we did not explore geopolitical debates”. This, of course, was to avoid Politicization—but why should willful ignorance be a source of pride? Since when is “context” synonymous with “subjectivity”?
The directors spent an entire deployment with the men, and were present for some intense firefights, though without much footage to prove it—just some jangly, disorienting handheld stuff made coherent by post-deployment interviews. The lack of compelling images reflects the confusion of the battlefield and the limited view of the warrior: like the frontliners, we have little idea who they’re fighting (“bad guys”), let alone a hint of why. The absence of any Afghani perspective encourages us to embrace the grunt’s moral binary, which might do the fighting man well in battle but does little for us at home, struggling to understand. Restrepo does a fair job of illustrating the terrifying violence of war, but it’s not without a point of view: it’s For the Boys, a loving, humanizing bit of jingoistic agitprop that wins festivals because nobody wants to appear, gulp, Anti-Troop.
Opens June 25