In "Restrepo," you never see where the shooting is coming from. It falls down from the Afghan mountains that surround the Korengal Valley, where American soldiers have built the titular military outpost. The men, (kids, really, some with pimples in their haunted, startlingly young faces) might as well be fighting ghosts.
Sebastian Junger (perhaps best known for his best-sellers "War" and "The Perfect Storm") and director Tim Hetherington (who was recently killed while covering Lybian conflict) spent most of a year embedded with a platoon in Afghanistan, reporting for Vanity Fair. What emerged is a document that puts you as close as you'll ever want to be to the sheer confusion of fighting against foes you can't even find, for a cause you can't quite articulate. Junger and Hetherington make an apolitical film, (thank God): the futility of the soldiers' efforts need no commentary. You'll never figure out WHAT they're trying to accomplish from their missions. The best answer is they're trying to stay alive while being constantly shot at. No, you don't get the side of the valley villagers, that's beyond the scope of the camera for reasons that should be obvious: if you can't supply your own context, that's a failure of your education and/or imagination. And yes, you may want to sneer at the soldiers and their naive talk of "bad guys" and "revenge" and "making them pay," but again, these are kids, not political philosophers; they say exactly what you would say in their situation- if you were daring or foolish enough to ever wind up where they are. "Restrepo" collected plenty of awards and adulation during its initial release, and although it's hardly DRAMATIC or COOL-LOOKING- why isn't war like in the movies?- it's a GO WATCH NOW film, if only because you need to know what it's like to be caught in an ambush. After you see these tough men, the toughest you'll meet, break down in hysterics at the sight of their fallen comrade, you'll appreciate their sacrifice anew and hate war all the more. Whatever you feel about the absurdity of our war machinery, never forget that soldiers are not machines, but human beings. And, frankly, much braver than you or me.