“It’s like Platoon in the mountains.”
That was a response by one viewer of this documentary. It’s a valid observation.
Restrepo tells the story of the 2nd Platoon of Battle Company in the 173rd Airborne Combat Team on its deployment in Afghanistan in 2007 and 2008. The title refers to the platoon outpost, named after a popular soldier, Juan “Doc” Restrepo, who was killed early in the fighting.
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Tim Hetherington, who was recently killed in Libya, was co-director along with Sebastian Junger of the documentary about U.S. soldiers in a Korengal Valley outpost in Afghanistan.
Echoes of Vietnam can be heard when the platoon leader tries to find ways to win the hearts and minds of villagers. Like in Vietnam, locals tend to help one force by day and another by night in order to survive and be allowed to go about their lives.
The Americans truly are strangers in a strange land and have to contend with the Taliban, who are from the area.
The documentary is punctuated by intense firefights and the audience is thrust in the heart of them.
Hetherington and Junger spent a year with the platoon and were able to reveal to the world how men (there are no women in the movie) cope as a group with the realities of war.
What is clear from the interviews is that most of the soldiers are hardly more than boys. Without wisdom gained from age and experience they can only process their plight as such.
This is not a heavy handed indictment against war. The directors do a marvelous job of giving a glimpse of the war in Afghanistan and allowing the story to tell itself.
Restrepo is available to rent.
Murphy can be reached at: [email protected]