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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Directors
Sebastian Junger
Tim Hetherington.
Screenwriters
Running Time
93 minutes

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Restrepo
Raw, relentless, rewarding and real


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Plot
When much-loved member of the 2nd Battalion in Afghanistan, ‘Doc’ Restrepo, is killed in action, his surviving comrades erect a symbolic outpost in his honour, in a year-long stand-off with the Taliban captured by documentary-makers Junger and Hetherington.


Review
Restrepo
At 31, Sebastian Junger, then a struggling freelance journalist and part-time waiter, visited his first war zone in Bosnia. Now, with 17 years, a healthy Vanity Fair retainer and one massive blockbuster adaptation of a novel (The Perfect Storm) under his belt, his experiences of his last tour of duty are here, on the back of Sundance Grand Jury glory and pitched as the first “apolitical” documentary on Afghanistan.

He and co-director Tim Hetherington spent 15 months in the Korangal Valley — a Taliban stronghold famously dubbed “the most dangerous place in the world” by CNN — and returned with 150 hours of tape they later intercut with talking-head interviews of the soldiers lucky enough to return home. The result is a mix of the traumatic and post-traumatic, terrifyingly visceral — cinematic, even — footage of soldiers under attack from an unseen enemy, underpinned by intimate, very human memories.

Abandoning a narrator in favour of an unblinking, sorta-vérité depiction of events, Junger and Hetherington deliberately avoid the bigger picture, focusing instead on the personal perspectives of a single platoon. The effect is both poignant — clearly emphasising the gulf between those who strategise and those who execute the strategies of others — and frustrating, the lack of a wider context escalating the troops’ isolation but fuzzing their goal.

At its essence, though, the story is simple and powerful. When the first of the platoon’s soldiers, the 20 year-old medic ‘Doc’ Restrepo of the title, is shot and killed, his comrades erect a small but symbolic fortress in his honour. Outpost Restrepo, perched on a hilltop overlooking the “valley of death”, is both a middle finger up at their hidden foe and a fascinating community within itself. Retreating there after endless days under fire and weekly councils with the local elders, the troops let off steam either by practising the guitar or, in a brilliant moment, wigging out in group euphoria, dancing madly (and badly) to Samantha Fox’s Touch Me (I Want Your Body).

It’s this footage, juxtaposed with some stunning combat photography, not least a haunting sequence when the sound cuts out as the troops come under fire investigating an IED, that gives the film its momentum. But it’s the bookending footage of Restrepo himself, clowning about on his way into battle, that gives it its heart.


Verdict
Powerful, terrifying and soulful, this real-life Hurt Locker is an intimate, often brilliant insight into combat and comradeship.


Reviewed by Mark Dinning

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Restrepo
Empire Star Rating

RE: Restrepo

I wasn't that impressed to be honest. For a company that was in the 'most dangerous position' on the planet for 15 months, I never felt they were in that much danger, especially the amount of times they were dicking around. Not just that, but with the exception of a couple of the soldiers, most of the troops seem to be completely nuts. Even the titular Doc Restrepo, when they're telling stories about him, it's mainly about how he got drunk, got a knife and wanted to stab people.... I... More

Posted by Timon at 08:41, 10 November 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Restrepo

A terrific film which doesn't get into the rights or wrongs of war but simply holds a mirror up to the realities of life fighting the insurgency in the Korengal Valley.  The talking heads add a lot of depth to the real time footage of the soldiers going about daily life - whether chilling out, taking fire or meeting the local village elders in an attempt to win the hearts and minds of those who the Taliban would like to see helping them. I highly recommend this film. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Groovy Mule at 00:13, 18 October 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Restrepo

A really powerful film, worth watching. Read our review here :http://www.cinetalk.tv/reviews/new-movies/restrepo/ ... More

Posted by Cinetalk at 20:21, 12 October 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Restrepo

Had this on my original list to see at the Edinburgh Film Festival but I had to drop it. Hopefully it gets some good distribution up here too cause I'm really keen to see it.... ... More

Posted by Qwerty Norris at 16:46, 07 October 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Restrepo

If this film is even half as good as the book then it's a must-see for me. Really want to see this, but it's not showing anywhere in my town ... More

Posted by superdan at 15:02, 07 October 2010 | Report This Post


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