Restrepo (2010) Short Review

While Restrepo is interesting, its not as good as I had heard. I dont agree that its unbiased, either. It starts by showing 3 soldiers (one being Restrepo who is KIA) before they arrive in Afghanistan and having a good time. It ends by stating nearly 50 soldiers have died (including Restrepo) and the military had unsuccessfully pulled out of the Korungal Valley.

The film is clearly trying to paint what the soldiers are doing as futile and fighting an unwinnable war. Thats not an unbiased POV. On top of that it never tells a clear story (which you have to do, even in a documentary film).

The entirety of the movie is an abstract montage of images, random firefights and non sequitur moments. A mass of confusion. I expect thats deliberate. The daily regiment of the soldiers is never given. This is mostly seen from a low level soldiers point of view. What they are trying to accomplish or how they go about that is never given.

Generally, in such a documentary, the film offers maps of the area that youre watching. Geographic size comparisons. Population statistics. Etc. You get nothing here. Even the outtakes offered up a bit more liveliness from the soldiers than the actual meat of the film. The documentary doesn’t really even allow for the personalities of the soldiers to come out, except when Restrepo is shown at the very beginning.

Holding this in comparison to, say, the documentaries that were featured on the Blackhawk Down DVD extras will give stark contrast to the objectivity of this film. There you got maps, viewpoints of the soldiers involved, the officers, the politicians, the locals caught up in the middle, and even the enemy’s viewpoint and lifestyle. You also got the reasoning behind the orders, the missions, the decision making and some of the politics involved. And maps. And statistics. And the names of all of the soldiers killed. Restrepo is a jumbled mass of images that doesnt even include dates.

There are some good things about the film. The cinematography is impressive. Of special note are the landscapes. I was disappointed by the film overall, though. The editing never delivers a clear coherent story. Why is it getting such rave reviews by Hollywood? Because it presents a war that the US is fighting as futile and at the same time allows them to give lip service to ‘supporting the troops’. You can’t support the people involved if you don’t support what they’re doing. I still give the film 2.5 for what is presented, but I don’t think there was anything here that I could not have gotten from a typical network news broadcast, only in Restrepo it’s in a sustained, confused dose. Most of the visuals look professional. The rest looks like it was put together by amateurs.

2.5 of 5


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