Real war: ‘Restrepo’ goes into Afghanistan trenches
November 29, 2010
Forget every movie you’ve ever seen wherein pampered Hollywood actors smudge their faces with dirt, rub on some fake blood and pretend they are soldiers fighting for their country and their lives on a remote and barren outpost.
“Restrepo,” a documentary film that follows a 15-month deployment of the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Afghanistan — which is now the longest war in American history — is the real thing.
Filmmakers Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger were embedded with the small band of a dozen or so soldiers assigned to what President George W. Bush called “the most dangerous place on the planet” — Korengal Valley — situated in the remotest part of that remote country. (It was during this time and in this vast valley but in another company that Staff Sergeant Sal Guinta would earn the first Medal of Honor awarded to a living person since the Vietnam War.)
If you didn’t know this was a documentary, you would think you were watching some ridiculous movie written by a Hollywood hack. After all, American soldiers aren’t left to fend for themselves and even build their own forts while being attacked — right? Wrong.
In order to defend the United States, in 2007, 15 US soldiers landed in this God forsaken place, dug a giant pit, then built ramshackle plywood huts in which to live for 15 months. All this while taking Taliban fire sometimes 24/7. A frontier outpost in the age of “Star Wars” technology.
The film’s title, “Restrepo,” comes from the name of the favorite man among this band of brothers, PFC Juan S. Restrepo, a 20-year-old single father, who saved limbs as the company medic and saved sanity with his terrific guitar playing and singing.
We meet Restrepo and the rest of the 173rd on their last night in Rome before deploying to Afghanistan. Ten minutes into the film, Restrepo is dead from enemy fire.
You will live with these guys as Junger and Hetherington did, cry, laugh, and have the bejesus scared out of you as you live through what some of them did not.
You will follow as these young kids go out to the mountain homes of the locals and try to communicate the reason they are there and what they are doing. A wondrous thing.
You will be shocked when a seemingly minor incident turns dangerous after a cow is killed by the soldiers and the owner demands payment — $400.
The Army brass tells these secluded soldiers in this dangerous outpost to offer the enraged locals beans and rice instead.
The movie is terrific, yes, but the soliders are brilliant.