Down In Death Valley With Restrepo

Down In Death Valley With Restrepo

Static Mass Rating: 5/5

Release Date: Oct 8th, 2010
Certificate: 15
Running Time: 93 minutes

Director: Tim Hetherington & Sebastian Junger

Restrepo is a  much talked about war documentary chronicling the deployment of a platoon of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley. At a screening a few days ago I found out why it deserves the praise it’s been receiving this past year.

The film explores the year that British photographer Hetherington and American journalist Junger spent in Afghanistan on assignment with the Second Platoon, B Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (airborne) of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team in the Korangal Valley. It is a remarkable look at the effects of war from the point of view of the soldiers who fight in it.

Restrepo (2010)  Tim Hetherington & Sebastian Junger

The journey begins with the men in high spirits as they make their way to Afghanistan, but as they draw nearer to their destination it begins to dawn on them how dangerous their mission is. Their outpost is out in the open where they are constantly being shot at and attacked from all sides.

The Korengal Valley, located south of the Pech River in the Pech District of Kunar Province in north-eastern Afghanistan has been nicknamed “Death Valley” by American soldiers over the years. 42 American service men lost their lives fighting there and hundreds have been wounded between 2006 and 2009 fighting there. Many Afghan soldiers also lost their lives in the fighting. It is considered the most dangerous posting in the U.S. military.

Restrepo (2010) Korangal Valley

When a member of the platoon, Juan “Doc” Restrepo, a 20-year-old Army medic from Pembroke Pines, is killed, his death shocks his fellow soldiers and leaves them grief stricken. Rather than abandon their post, they decide to stay and fight for it, securing it and naming it after the fallen soldier. The documentary itself is a tribute to him and when the men talk about him, you begin to understand a little bit about what it means to be a soldier; the bond you make with those fighting next to you is suddenly broken with a violent death that you know is always a possibility but never prepared for.

There are moments when the tension is lifted, such as when they turn up the music in their makeshift disco and dance to a remix of Samantha Fox’s 80’s hit “Touch Me (I Wanna Feel Your Body)”, deck their rooms with Christmas lights and play video games to pass the time. You get a sense of the sacrifices men like them make even if you don’t agree with the politics or necessity of war.

Restrepo, along with Mike Scotti’s This Is War are important documents of war. They give a side of the story which is sometimes overlooked because it is unpleasant, because it might makes us disagree with the need for war, but still, their stories need to be told.

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