Perspective. Sometimes it’s hard to have it when you’re trudging through thigh-high snow as the wind blows ice shards into your face. And then you see just the movie you need to see to stop feeling sorry for yourself.
Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger’s Restrepo chronicles a 15 month deployment in 2007-2008 for the U.S. Army’s Second Platoon in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley, a Taliban stronghold. The title comes from the name of one of the servicemen, PFC Juan “Doc” Restrepo, who is killed in action early in the deployment and becomes the namesake for an outpost established deeper in enemy territory. The filmmakers are there in the middle of the seemingly daily fire-fights, building to a remarkable sequence in which after-the-fact interviews with several soldiers prepare us for the particularly dangerous Operation Rock Avalanche. But what may be most staggering about Restrepo is getting a close look at the returned soldiers’ faces. They’re practically still boys, their cheeks dotted with acne but their lives already changed forever by experiences that will always haunt them. It’s a remarkable study of how these young men stay alive and sane fighting for the chance to build a new outpost 700 yards from the old one. And suddenly, my little traipses through the snow don’t feel like anything worth bitching about.