(out of 5)
The filmmakers of this fascinating documentary spend a year in the trenches with soldiers in the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan, the strategic outpost considered to be the most dangerously situated in military history. We watch these men in battle, at rest, and in between there are interviews with various members of the platoon who relate their most harrowing experiences during their year, many of them traumatized by the amount of violence and death that they have witnessed. There is a decided lack of commentary either from outside press or from higher-ranking military authority; this is one of the least decorative military documentary films ever made, one that sticks very close to its subjects for a very powerful effect. Filmmaker Tim Hetherington puts himself in very grave danger throughout, keeping his camera so close to the soldiers’ guns for so a lengthy period of time and producing some incredibly disturbing footage. One might think movies like The Hurt Locker enjoy too much dramatic license, but here we witness the soldiers react to the fear and danger they are often submerged in by letting loose with lots of jokes and the occasional dance party. Hetherington’s devotion to his work turned to tragedy following this film’s success, as he died in 2011 while covering the conflict in Libya.
Cinematography by Tim Hetherington, Sebastian Junger
Produced by Tim Hetherington, Sebastian Junger
Film Editing by Michael Levine