You don’t often get sequels to documentaries. But here’s one, picking up where ‘Restrepo’, the 2010 fly-on-the-wall doc about a US platoon in Afghanistan, left off. Death hangs over this follow-up: 42 American soldiers have died in the remote Korengal Valley; and one of the ‘Restrepo’ co-directors, British war photographer Tim Hetherington, was killed in Libya in 2011.
Like ‘Restrepo’, this troubling and thoughtful documentary asks tough questions. Why do young men fight? From what we see, not for freedom or justice but for each other. Perhaps war and the adrenalin rush of a firefight are part of their hardwiring. Another question: what on earth are they doing there in Korengal, an edge-of-nowhere place? The soldiers take their lives in their hands daily, visiting local elders in the valley, knowing full well they’ve got those men’s hearts and minds only so long as they are stationed up on the hill.