War film "Restrepo" gives ground view of Afghan war

Thu Jun 24, 2010 5:33pm EDT
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By Bob Tourtellotte

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Want to talk war? Forget U.S. Generals Stanley McChrystal and even David Petraeus, and consider not what they faced, or face, in Afghanistan. Think, for a moment, about ground troops and what they encounter.

Better yet, see them in a new film documentary, "Restrepo," which opens in U.S. theaters on Friday and was made by famed author Sebastian Junger and war reporter Tim Hetherington.

"Restrepo," the Grand Jury Prize winner at this year's Sundance Film Festival, covers the one-year deployment during 2007 and 2008 of a platoon of U.S. soldiers in the deadly Korengal Valley, and instead of telling audiences about the war, Junger and Hetherington simply turn on their cameras and let audiences watch the bullets fly.

More accurately, audiences see the soldiers facing cultural differences, boredom and fatigue until Taliban guns pop, bombs explode and men are plunged -- sometimes crying -- into chaos.

"We wanted people to see (the war), so we thought we would make a movie that was real, but didn't feel weighed down or stiff, the way many documentaries do," Junger said. "We wanted viewers to have the feeling that they were in a...deployment."

As Americans ponder President Obama's decision this week to fire the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General McChrystal, and replace him with General Petraeus, and what that means for big picture war policy, "Restrepo" makes people think about the little guys encamped in a faraway land.

The film begins innocently with the men of Battle Company of the 173rd Airborne Brigade laughing and joking as they head from training in the United States to war in Afghanistan.

Audiences meet several of them, but most importantly the medic, Specialist Restrepo, who early on is memorialized after his sudden death when the men name an outpost on the edge of the war zone, Camp Restrepo.   Continued...