At the peak of the conflict in Afghanistan in summer 2009, a company of US marines are dropped into hostile territory to fight insurgents and shift the momentum in the war against the Taliban. "We are experts in the application of violence", their leader reminds them, "with a clear purpose and a clean conscience." The film follows 25-year-old Sergeant Nathan Harris over several months in the field, then back to North Carolina. But incorporating his experiences and injury into life back home isn't easy.
Shot with clear-eyed intensity, the cameramen nestle right in with the soldiers as they manoeuvre for position and then engage in brutal gun battles. This approach sharply observes the raw emotions in the line of fire, as well as how they haunt veterans back at home. Structurally, the film flickers back and forth to mimic the jarring battlefield memories. Nathan talks about how the only way to get on with life at war is to accept the fact that you can die at any moment, so it's no surprise that he struggles to cope with the mundane details of a fast-food drive-up window.
Shot like a narrative feature, the film is packed with terrific scenes that are chilling simply because of the subtext. While no one can question the soldiers' motives, their methods are deeply troubling. One officer tells the Afghans that US forces are here to protect them for quite some time, only to be immediately asked to leave because they're making the area too dangerous for the children.
Back home, Nathan cuddles his pistol while his wife sorts out his medication.
Nathan longs to return to the frontline, but his injuries mean that he'll never walk without assistance. On heavy medication, his thoughts turn to violence and suicide, and filmmaker Dennis remains intimately close right through it all.
Clearly, no young man should have to deal with this kind of internal horror.
And Nathan's experiences in Afghanistan will be with him for the rest of his life, physically, mentally and emotionally.
Run time: 88 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 5th October 2011
Box Office USA: $37.5k
Distributed by: Docurama Films
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
IMDB: 6.5 / 10
Director: Danfung Dennis
Producer: Danfung Dennis, Martin Herring
Like an antidote to vacuous blockbusters, this intelligent, thoughtful drama packs more intensity into a...
This biopic gallops through the career of groundbreaking gangsta rappers N.W.A, working its way through...
Basically the perfect summer movie, this lightweight drama has a great-looking cast and plenty of...
As the ghoul from the 2012 horror hit stalks a new family, this sequel's sharply...
After setting the scene with vivid characters and some insightful interaction, the plot of this...
Both the characters and the tone have been updated as a new generation of Grizwolds...
Amy Schumer makes her big screen debut with a script that feels like a much-extended...
Adopting a deliciously groovy vibe, Guy Ritchie turns the iconic 1960s TV spy series into...