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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Restrepo: A View of the Deadliest Valley in Afghanistan

Photo by US Army
This adrenaline driven movie shows what war is truly like in Afghanistan for those soldiers unfortunate enough to call the Korengal Valley home for year long stints. The film crew followed the 173rd Airborne, which was a Company of just 15 Army soldiers whom would need to secure an area of operation, that has seen some of the heaviest combat in all of Operation Enduring Freedom. 

It is great how the producers of this documentary focused on one specific company and did not try to bring in other aspects of the war that could take away from the story of this unique situation. The actual story of these troops can take various view points and people can have very different reactions to the daily operations, and overall hell that takes place in a remote warzone outpost with no comforts of home. 

An overriding theme that you can pick up on is the daily firefights that took place in an region near the Pakistan border where the soldiers must live on the bare necessities provided to them by helicopter drops. The outpost they construct by hand with a shovel, pickax, and rudimentary materials is quite impressive given the fact that they must do so under constant defense from the enemy combatants. 

The actual combat scenes can bring excitement or in some cases great anxiety in seeing the constant stress and in turn presenting very action packed combat scenes. You never see the enemy as they are typically out of eye shot or perhaps this was the directors intention in hiding an evil that you know is there and can cause harm at any moment without notice. When the soldiers are on foot patrol it is particularly palpable as you don't know when they may come under attack at the drop of a dime. 

There are moments where you can see the typical interaction with locals including the meetings with local elders which is common place in Afghanistan, where the Army tries to build confidence in their actions against the Taliban. The insight is quite interesting as you see the benefits they market to the locals in bringing jobs or by proxy wealth to a region that lives in what most would consider the middle ages. In turn the military is requesting to not be attacked or have the elder's children join the enemy forces. A simple request in the scheme of things, but is greatly complicated by distrust due to civilian casualties in the heat of combat. 

The actual back story to the outpost and its name are explained well. There is great attention paid to the emotions and interactions of the soldiers I don't want to give away more specifics that you can see in the film or read in the book. I took away acknowledgement for the worst things that our troops have seen over in Afghanistan and think the movie is a great example of a lot of what our men in uniform see across the theatre of war. 

If you missed the TV debut of Restrepo on the NatGeo Channel last night, you can pick up the DVD starting December 7th. Possible replays may be in the works as well.