The dual-review film criticism site: first a spoiler-free review, then an in-depth Alternate Take.
Battle Company: Korengal

Reviewed by Emma Varnam.

Director Sebastian Junger
Length 84 mins
Certificate 15 / R
Rating **********
Filmmaking: 5  Personal enjoyment: 5

Photo from the article Battle Company: Korengal is the next instalment from documentary filmmaker turned war reporter extraordinaire Sebastian Junger (Perfect Storm, War). Picking up where his previous documentary Restrepo (2012) left us it provides a personal insight into the psychological effects of war. Involving the same soldiers seen within Restrepo, Junger paints a vivid picture of a group of men stuck in one of the most remote parts of Afghanistan attempting to survive and cope with loss.

The film consists mainly of interviews of the platoon’s soldiers giving first-hand accounts of the daily firefights encountered, showing the exhilaration and skill involved in engaging the enemy. The camera jumps between interviews and is supported by footage shot on the frontline at Restrepo. Junger captures the emotion involved in killing the enemy, which can be at times distorted in similar documentaries. This is what makes Battle Company: Korengal such an interesting watch - its all out guts to show a true picture of the experiences of men putting their lives on the line. Strangely, bravery isn’t a topic for discussion. The soldiers pour their hearts out vividly describing close combat and dealing with loss. One of the most pressing issues that Battle Company: Korengal explores is how the soldiers deal with leaving the camp during their rest and recovery periods. The majority of men admit to feeling lost and empty without it and their struggles in making the transition between home life and the front line. This sheds light on an issue perhaps not as highly represented in other contemporary war documentaries.

Putting aside the serious element of its cinéma vérité style, Battle Company: Korengal also gives insight into the friendship and camaraderie that the platoon share. Long shots capture a friendly stone fight between two soldiers, close up shots show soldiers wrestling and interviews capture how the men share their thoughts on who would win in a fight: George Clooney or Fabio? It is this moment that really adds the true human touch to being lost in a place thousands of miles from home. The humour shared between the men does not distort their true loyalty to each other - they each say they would die for the soldier next to them.

Battle Company: Korengal provides an honest account of the encounters of men living through the daily struggles of living within remote Afghanistan. One soldier recounts his thoughts on the common attitude towards combat, “You did what you had to do”. This provides a reflection into the thought processes that perhaps follow combat and loss. However, not once does the film criticise the idea of war nor does it condone it which is what makes it special. What Battle Company: Korengal gives is a snapshot into living within the turbulent Afghan mountains - villages in turmoil, elders refusing to work with the US military and the suspicion of the local inhabitants that the soldiers encounter on a daily basis. This is the answer to an honest documentary - one that does not lead but provides a snapshot of effects of war. The credits at the end provide a heart-warming dedication to Tim Hetherington, a reporter who accompanied Junger throughout his time in Afghanistan and sadly passed away in the Libyan civil war in 2011. The photographs provide a perfect homage to their work, with close ups of the infamous ‘Infidel’ tattoos showing camaraderie and insights into the connections shared between the soldiers and emotions exchanged. The photographs will stay in your head far longer than the 90 minutes that the documentary lasts, showing its true stamp on its audience.

Alternate Take to follow soon...

This review was published on June 20, 2014.

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