Rated 4.0

Like casualties, war movies keep mounting. Now here’s Restrepo, for which war-zone regulars Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington embedded among a platoon of American soldiers in Afghanistan’s “deadliest place on Earth,” the Korengal Valley. Shorn of context or comment, their film approximates the apolitical, anthropological detachment of a cinéma-vérité style. It’s less an old-fashioned idea of objectivity than a faith in the purity of witness borne to that which all warriors endure: the terror, absurdity, boredom, strategy, work, drudgery, valor, violence, dancing, crying, shooting, dying. Junger, of The Perfect Storm fame, is a fine and brave journalist, but he somehow makes a posture out of not having a stance. He also has written a book about this experience, called War, and there’s something contradictory and unsettling about his impulse to strip everything down to a basic essence while also rolling it out across multiple media platforms. Then again, there’s something contradictory and unsettling about the organized violence of military combat. Restrepo rouses our admiration for the soldiers, our sense of honor, our grief. But it also reminds us that after a while, or maybe right from the beginning, a war doesn’t even need an ideology. It just needs men who’ll kill for each other.