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MOVIE REVIEW

Right on the front lines

Brilliant and powerful, 'Restrepo' shows the war in Afghanistan at its most elemental.

June 25, 2010|Betsy Sharkey | Times film critic

Though Junger and Hetherington, who shared camera operator duties and directing credit, say they had no pro- or antiwar agenda, it's almost impossible to watch without your own views' coloring the images that flash by on screen. Rather than showing death itself, the filmmakers show the moments after, and this they do only once -- the men who keep the best friend of a downed soldier at a distance, the grief that breaks him apart when he learns his buddy's fate, the body quickly covered except for a single boot.

Just how close the filmmakers were to the action, and the risks they took with the project, filter into virtually every scene. We hear the bullets whizzing past, breaking branches in nearby trees. We watch the mad scramble that comes with one attack -- the images from the hand-held camera jarred by the movement, the sound briefly dropping out.

What "Restrepo" does so dramatically, so convincingly, is make the abstract concrete, giving the soldiers on the front lines faces and voices. Like a 20-year-old medic from Pembroke Pines, Fla., who laughed and fought and died. A face, a voice and a name, Restrepo, we should not forget.

betsy.sharkey@latimes.com

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