By now, pretty much all of us who are going to read the Rolling Stone article that caused General McCrystal to resign his post at the helm of the Afghanistan war have done so. The writer, Michael Hastings, is unlikely to write another piece like it for some time. He's just been denied an embed by the Department of Defense.
Luckily, journalists Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger (the guy who wrote The Perfect Storm) had a 10 month embed in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley back in 2008. They took with them video equipment and have directed a powerful war documentary, Restrepo.
I realize, a lot of people head to the movies to escape and Restrepo doesn't allow for that. Sure, it's in an unfamiliar world and about experiences that aren't, for most of us, everyday. But its story of a small group of soldiers who engage in gunfights every day and who, on more than one occasion, lose a member of their team is too real to ignore. One could easily say that of course it's too real, it's a documentary, but so was The King of Kong, and that sucker doesn't feel real at all. What makes Restrepo so powerful is that the filmmakers don't judge their subjects from a healthy distance. Instead, they climb into the foxhole with them as the same bullets whizz by their rolling cameras.
Restrepo opens tonight at the Century 14 Downtown and, because it's the downer flick of the year, probably won't be around all that long. That's a damn shame though. This movie is amazing and demonstrates, through a first hand account, of just how many resources are being wasted in Afghanistan. Despite having spent more than a trillion dollars on the almost decade old war, the troops in Restrepo don't have a lot of resources. (By the way, they're also not being paid all that great either.)
Whether you're for the war or against it, Restrepo, named after the base at which the troops are stationed (which, in turn, was named for one of those killed in the valley), gives a view of war most of us wouldn't want to see first hand.