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Filmmakers Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington pay a visit to Afghanistan's Korengal Valley to spend a year with the Second Platoon, a besieged squadron who dubbed their stronghold Outpost Restrepo in honor of their fallen comrade PFC Juan Restrepo. An al-Qaeda and Taliban stronghold, Korengal Valley sees some of the fiercest fighting in the War on Terror. Restrepo is such a battlefield immersion, it almost works against itself. It almost makes a person forget it's even a documentary, creating an expectation to see everything you'd see in a Hollywood war movie, including people dying onscreen. In fact, a soldier operating out of the Restrepo outpost in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley does indeed die while the filmmakers' cameras are rolling nearby. It's just that Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger had too much respect for the soldier's dignity to include the footage in the final film. The filmmakers embed themselves with such gusto that it sets a new standard in shooting combat, but the majority of Restrepo is not about the surface-level thrill of bullets whizzing by the camera. Its heart and soul is to examine the unique circumstances of one of the most unforgiving battle fronts in American combat theater, and how soldiers with a range of different personalities respond to those circumstances. Because Hetherington and Junger also appreciate subtlety, they don't give us many "big moments" with these characters, moments orchestrated to manipulate us. Yet their small seeds of doubt, their minute indications of fear, and their palpable yearnings for home give these soldiers the kind of emotional depth most screenwriters work overtime to attain. Hetherington and Junger are smart to avoid taking their own position on the war, correctly recognizing that such a stance might hinder what they're trying to accomplish. And as much as they capture a disdain among troops for the enemies of America, they also show us the military's genuine attempts at positive outreach with ordinary Afghanis.

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HSP670733 Restrepo DVD (2010) $19.95