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Betsy Sharkey's film pick of the week: 'Restrepo'

June 30, 2010 |  1:53 pm


Memo to all the fine-art film fans out there who have been resisting movies about Middle East war zones — yes, you “Hurt Locker” rejectors,  I mean you. Please don’t make the same mistake and overlook “Restrepo" and watch it get an Oscar nomination without you.

This excellent documentary chronicling a single U.S. platoon on deployment in Afghanistan in 2007-2008 is as insightful as it is visceral, and it could not be more timely given the contretemps over Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal's harsh criticisms of the Obama administration’s Afghan ministrations and the general’s subsequent dismissal by the commander in chief.

Instead, “Restrepo” comes as something of a relief, told as it is from the point of view of the soldiers on the ground. Filmmakers Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger (best known as the author of “The Perfect Storm"), both veterans of covering other wars and working for Vanity Fair and ABC News for this one, worked side by side with the troops as they fought, in all spending five months in the deadly Korengal Valley over the course of the deployment, and the result is true cinema verite, sometimes a little too verite for comfort.

But ultimately the power of "Restrepo" comes from its namesake, Juan S. Restrepo, an Army private with swagger, shades and an infectious smile, mugging for the camera in the early scenes of the documentary. Restrepo is also the desolate outpost in Korengal Valley named after him. He was 20 when he was killed in a firefight not long after his company arrived in the summer of 2007, and the others did not want to forget. We should not either.

— Betsy Sharkey, Times film critic

Photo: Spc. Kyle Steiner of 2nd Platoon, Battle Company, 173rd U.S. Airborne at Outpost Restrepo in Afghanistan. Credit: Outpost Films.

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Comments () | Archives (4)

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Nicely written piece, Betsy Sharkey.

This looks to be an awesome film rather than the joke known as Hurt Locker produced by whatshername.

Too bad Restrepo is in such limited release.

- josephlcooke.blogspot

Read Sebastian Junger's book, War, and also saw Restrepo. This is such an important document about the war, that I wish a major network would pick it up and run it in prime time. Americans should be seeing this film, and it needs a wider release.

The photo of Outpost Restrepo looks so much like the local mountains here in Southern California, that at first I thought it was taken here in the spring, after winter rains greened the hills. This sounds like a good movie. Junger is a careful writer.

Can't wait to see this important movie. S. Junger is a fantastic writer.


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