DVD Talk
Release List Reviews Shop Newsletter Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray Advertise
Reviews & Columns
Reviews
DVD
TV on DVD
Blu-ray
International DVDs
Theatrical
Adult
Video Games

Features
Collector Series DVDs
Easter Egg Database
Interviews
DVD Talk Radio
Feature Articles

Columns
Anime Talk
XCritic.com
DVD Stalk
DVD Savant
High-Def Revolution
Silent DVD

discussion forum
DVD Talk Forum
Resources
DVD Price Search
Customer Service #'s
RCE Info
Links

DVDTalk Info
Review Staff
About DVD Talk
Advertise
Newsletter Subscribe
Join DVD Talk Forum
DVD Talk Feeds


Special Offer

Search: For:
Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Restrepo
Restrepo
National Geographic // R // December 7, 2010
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Preston Jones | posted December 5, 2010 | E-mail the Author
Buy from Amazon.com
C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Recommended
E - M A I L
this review to a friend
P R I N T
Printer Friendly
The Movie

Initially, there's little that distinguishes Restrepo from every other recent documentary about the United States' ongoing, overseas wars. The footage, recorded by a pair of freshman directors (author Sebastian Junger and photographer Tim Hetherington), borders on mundane -- until the Humvee carrying the young soldiers and the camerman rolls over an improvised explosive device (IED). There's the dull thud of a muffled explosion, a burst of shrapnel and dust and viewers' pulses will accelerate. It's a sharp shock, a ragged spike of adrenaline which occurs frequently throughout Restrepo, one of the year's finest documentaries and a gut-wrenching travelogue that pulls back the curtain on the sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform.

Restrepo chronicles a little more than a year in the life of Battle Company's Second Platoon. The young soldiers were stationed, from 2007 until mid-2008, in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley, an unforgiving corner of a uninviting country. The unit was stationed in mountains that reach more than 10,000 feet above sea level. The film takes its title from the outpost the soldiers established in the Korengal, which was dubbed "Restrepo" in honor of their fallen comrade Private First Class Juan Restrepo (glimpsed briefly in the film). Assembled from the roughly 150 hours of video footage captured by Junger and Hetherington, as well as interviews conducted with the soldiers three months after their tours ended, Restrepo renders an unflinching, apolitical portrait of men at war. The ennui, the low-level fright, the ugliness, the brotherhood, the mental and physical impact of combat -- all are captured by Hetherington and Junger's fly-on-the-wall cameras. (It's also a companion piece to Junger's non-fiction tome "War," which was released in conjunction with Restrepo's theatrical run earlier this year.)

Junger is best known for writing "The Perfect Storm," which evolved into a big-budget Hollywood affair of the same name starring George Clooney. Hetherington, on the other hand, has spent the better part of a decade out of the spotlight, working in some of the world's most vicious war zones and documenting what goes on for outlets like Vanity Fair. Together and apart, they made 10 trips to the Korengal Valley, from May 2007 to July 2008. The outpost would never be mistaken for a luxe resort; after landing in the valley, Restrepo could only be accessed on foot, hiking for two hours up mountains that topped out at 10,000 feet above sea level. There was no running water, no Internet access or phone. Three months after the platoon's deployment concluded, Junger and Hetherington conducted follow-up interviews with the soldiers in Italy. These moving testimonies -- many soldiers become visibly moved discussing their deployments -- are woven together with footage from the merciless Korengal.

The revealing interviews, intercut with the gritty footage captured in Afghanistan, lend context and a staggering weight to the frequently disquieting images, such as the pivotal moment when the platoon is forced to deal with a death in the midst of a vicious firefight. It's harrowing stuff that drives home the cost of freedom. Yet the filmmakers, wisely, keep the film from veering off into partisan political fingerpointing or becoming bogged down in making a larger point than is necessary. Restrepo's focus doesn't stray: the outpost and the soldiers who lived and fought there. By doing so, the co-directors keep their film from being contaminated by any unnecessary, external noise, whether that's think tank talking heads or news reports. Rather, Restrepo simply offers a you-are-there perspective of what the war on terror looks and feels like, a valuable insight in an era of overheated political discourse.

The DVD

The Video:

Restrepo arrives on DVD with a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Given the source material, this film won't be at the top of anyone's list of reference material, but it accurately conveys its subject matter. The frantic, handheld images are often smeared, distorted or afflicted with video noise. There's often a lack of detail, but there are moments -- particularly during the filmed interviews that are interspersed with the footage shot in Afghanistan -- where the image looks like what it is: a recently filmed production. It may be a mixed bag, visually, but it feels authentic.

The Audio:

The English Dolby Digital 5.1 track, much like the visuals, doesn't always wow you. However, the muffled or incoherent sounds do an excellent job of immersing the viewers in the hellish chaos of combat. There are a few moments where the surrounds kick in, but largely, the action is relegated to the front soundstage. The interviews are heard clearly, free from any drop-out or other notable defect. An optional English, Dolby Digital 2.0 track is included, as are optional English subtitles.

The Extras:

Twenty minutes, 14 seconds of deleted scenes (presented in anamorphic widescreen) are offered without anything in the way of context, much as the 25 minutes, 10 seconds of extended interviews (presented in anamorphic widescreen) with the soldiers of Battle Company's Second Platoon are included without anything to orient the clips. The four minute, 37 second featurette "Sleeping Soldiers" (presented in fullscreen) is an almost impressionistic montage of the Second Platoon, with stills and video intermingled. Eighteen text screens provide updates on the soldiers, written by the men themselves, with PSAs for IAVA (Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America), Operation Homefront and TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors) and trailers rounding out the disc.

Final Thoughts:

Initially, there's little that distinguishes Restrepo from every other recent documentary about the United States' ongoing, overseas wars. The footage, recorded by a pair of freshman directors (author Sebastian Junger and photographer Tim Hetherington), borders on mundane -- until the Humvee carrying the young soldiers and the camerman rolls over an improvised explosive device (IED). There's the dull thud of a muffled explosion, a burst of shrapnel and dust and viewers' pulses will accelerate. It's a sharp shock, a ragged spike of adrenaline which occurs frequently throughout Restrepo, one of the year's finest documentaries and a gut-wrenching travelogue that pulls back the curtain on the sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform. The revealing interviews, intercut with the gritty footage captured in Afghanistan, lend context and a staggering weight to the frequently disquieting images, such as the pivotal moment when the platoon is forced to deal with a death in the midst of a vicious firefight. Yet the filmmakers, wisely, keep the film from veering off into partisan political fingerpointing or becoming bogged down in making a larger point than is necessary. Restrepo's focus doesn't stray: the outpost and the soldiers who lived and fought there. By doing so, the co-directors keep their film from being contaminated by any unnecessary, external noise, whether that's think tank talking heads or news reports. Rather, Restrepo simply offers a you-are-there perspective of what the war on terror looks and feels like, a valuable insight in an era of overheated political discourse. Recommended.

Portions of this review are re-purposed from my previous reviews for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Dallas Morning News.
Popular Reviews
1. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones
2. King Kong Escapes
3. Fargo: Remastered Edition
4. Criminal Minds: The Eighth Season
5. My Mother the Car: The Complete Series
6. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
7. Equus
8. Betty Boop: The Essential Collection, Volume 3
9. Ride Along
10. Little House on the Prairie - Season One & The Pilot Movie


Special Offers
DVD Blowouts
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
Alien [Blu-ray]
Buy: $19.99 $9.99
8.
9.
10.
Special Offers
Release List Reviews Shop Newsletter Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray Advertise
Copyright 2014 DVDTalk.com All Rights Reserved. Legal Info, Privacy Policy, Terms of Use