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The most common question On Violence has received in the last six months is, “Why haven’t you guys reviewed the film Restrepo?” Or its sibling question, “What did you think of Restrepo?” Well, we can’t avoid the topic any longer.
Last year we had an astoundingly informative series of posts on the 2010 Academy Awards, discussing the four Best Picture nominees that dealt with war and violence. Though some of the films this year are violent (Winter’s Bone, True Grit) or violent-lite (Black Swan? The Fighter? 127 Hours?), none are about violence per se.
Ah, but there is a documentary about war: Restrepo, the Best-Documentary-nominated film by Sebastian Junger/Tim Hetherington about one platoon’s deployment in the Korengal valley. We have to write about it, right?
Maybe. The problem is that I, Michael C, was there. Not Afghanistan, but literally at OP Restrepo during the tour featured in Restrepo. I had some pre-viewing reservations. I feared it would dwell too much on the combat, but Restrepo did a pretty good job capturing what it feels like to be deployed for a year. The ratio of combat to boredom was realistic.
Still, I hesitate to write about Restrepo because criticizing it feels like criticizing myself, if that makes sense. My men who saw Restrepo loved it. If I didn’t, would something be wrong with me? Also, even if I did enjoy it, could I put out an honest review? Could I let Eric C put out an honest review? Eric C’s critique of war memoir criticism (you have to criticize real people) is tripled when they are people you know and served with.
As a result, we held off on publishing much about the film.
In full disclosure, I also personally avoided the film. I didn’t want to go back to OP Restrepo. In another way, I didn’t want my memories polluted by Restrepo. (If that seems like a cop out, it isn't the first time. I have the book Victory Point by Ed Darack that I very much want to review. Even the fact that Victory Point takes place in Konar province, and around the Korengal valley, makes it feel too close for comfort. If that doesn't make sense, I agree.)
Eric C will handle the rest of this week, so I will provide my one comment about the film: I wanted more “The Hell Divers” Fourth Platoon, Destined Company, possibly the greatest, most competent Army unit ever to serve in the US Army, nee military, nee armies around the world and for all of time. Restrepo mentions our trucks once; I don’t think our vehicles ever made it on camera. You can, though, hear our machine guns firing in several scenes. OP Restrepo could not have been built except for the heroic efforts of Fourth Platoon. In another example, the IED event that opens the film, our trucks towed that truck to the KOP. I understand why the directors left it out, that doesn’t mean I don’t disagree.
So what’s up for the rest of the week?
On Wednesday, Eric C shares some fantastic passages from Sebastian Junger’s War.
On Thursday, he wonders why war memoirs rock so hard.
On Friday, Eric C recommends War.
Finally, a week from today, Eric C tackles Restrepo, documentaries and context.