A year ago I saw, along with young physically challenged veterans, the staggeringly remarkable “The Hurt Locker” directed by Kathryn Bigelow. It concentrated on the war in Iraq but its brilliance rested it its lack of politics; no whys, if onlys, or Bush bashing; just focusing on getting the job done. I knew it was one the finest films about war that I had ever seen and the Academy validated my insights by honoring it with the Academy Award for Best Picture, 2009.
“Restrepo” a documentary, portrays the war in Afghanistan. Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington have created a riveting but at times flawed masterpiece. Over a two year period they lived, filmed, almost perished with Battle Company of the 173rd Airborne Brigade at the Restrepo outpost (named after Juan “Doc” Restrepo, a fun loving medic we see in the commencement of the documentary; his death haunts every member of the Brigrade) in the lethal, Taliban- infested Korengal Valley. The interviewed soldiers at times stoically, but often with debilitating emotion that gashes your heart; tell their solicited and unsolicited thoughts about their families, friends, war. They are gentle men, farmers, city boys in the prime of youth; not even knowing what they “want to be when they grow up”. They live every gun- riddled moment, knowing the future is illusive, an apparition they might never possess. Their tattooed bodies a tableau, that speak vibrant, soundless volumes of their idols, passions and fears.
Afghanistan’s image is one of evil, destruction and hell. But its beauty is rarely addressed. Kahled Hosseini”s “A Thousand Splendid Suns” quotes a seventeenth century Afgan poet, Saib-e-Tabrizi:
One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs
Or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls.
Whether their intention or not Junger and Hetherington give credibility to these lines of sublime poetry, while depicting the nightmarish, mundane, droning, unpredictable lives of the men at Restrepo.