Korengal (2014)

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Released 1-Apr-2015

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Madman propaganda x 4
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2014
Running Time 80:56 (Case: 84)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Sebastian Junger
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring None Given
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Marty Beller


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

"This is what war feels like"

     Between May 2007 and July 2008 author Sebastian Junger (The Perfect Storm) and photographer Tim Hetherington (who was tragically killed in Libya in 2011) lived with and filmed the men of the Second Platoon, Battle Company, 503 Infantry Regiment, 173 Airborne on deployment in the Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, eastern Afghanistan. The initial result was Restrepo, a sometimes harrowing, sometimes beautiful, always candid documentary that was Oscar nominated. Korengal is not a sequel but a companion to Restrepo. My review of Restrepo can be found here.

     The Korengal Valley of Afghanistan was christened the “Valley of Death” and two months into their deployment Battle Company established OP (outpost) Restrepo on a hilltop. The intention was to disrupt the Taliban supply lines and to draw the Taliban to them; in this they succeeded for, as one soldier estimated, they were attacked 3 days out of every four during their deployment. Korengal starts with the information that in April 2010 the US forces withdrew from the Korengal Valley and OP Restrepo was destroyed as they left. Thus, after almost 5 years and 42 American lives lost, the Korengal Valley was abandoned to the Taliban. The number of Afghan deaths, innocent civilians and fighters, was not recorded.

     From the very start of Korengal, therefore, it is clear that after so much hardship, lives and materials, the occupation failed. Like Restrepo, Korengal, was created from the footage shot by Junger and Hetherington using handheld cameras as they following the soldiers on patrol, into firefights as the bullets fly and at leisure in the OP between patrols. This footage is mixed with interviews conducted with some of the surviving members of the platoon after their deployment finished which ties some of the themes of the documentary together.

     Where Restrepo was more action oriented, in Korengal Junger is more interested in examining how the various soldiers reacted to the psychological stresses of living in very basic facilities (which they had built themselves) on a hill top in the Afghan mountains coping with rain, snow and hail and a hostile population. In the interviews we find out about the soldiers’ fear, the adrenaline of surviving firefights, their distrust of the locals, different reactions to killing, racism and the boredom, but the soldiers continually emphasise the camaraderie between them, the sense that what is really important is the men around you and doing your job so as not to put them into more danger than is usual.

     Korengal is very real and candid, sometimes tense, sometimes harrowing, of soldiers on deployment in a dangerous, yet beautiful environment and is as close to being in a firefight as you can get without being shot at. And, certainly without in any way deprecating the sacrifice, courage and professionalism of these men who were doing what they have been ordered to do, Korengal shows clearly, in the distrust between a local population and an occupying force, why the mission ultimately was not successful.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Korengal is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, the original ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced.

     The post deployment interviews are sharp and detailed but, as might be expected, the footage from the Korengal Valley varies, especially where some rare Taliban shot footage is included. In this footage contrast is variable, blacks and shadow detail vary but are generally fine, there is interlacing and some motion blur while colours are natural.

     There are no subtitles although burnt in yellow subtitles translate some of the dialogue with the Afghans.

     The layer change was not noticeable.

     The print looks as one should expect of hand held, on the ground in a battle zone, footage.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Audio is English Dolby Digital 5.1 encoded at 448 Kbps.

     This is a centre oriented track with only occasional effects, such as thunder and music, in the surrounds but one should not expect clean audio in the middle of a fire-fight with the Taliban! The interview segments were clean and easy to hear. The sub-woofer was mostly silent but did support explosions and the machine gun fire.

     Lip synchronisation was fine.

     The original score by Marty Beller was used sparsely yet was effective.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Theatrical Trailer (1:31)

Madman Propaganda

     Trailers for other films from Madman: Restrepo (2:15), Which Way is the Front Line from Here? (0:54), The Kill Team (2:13) and Dirty Wars (2:22).

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Region A US Blu-ray release has as extras an audio commentary by Sebastian Junger, a talk by Junger on “Why Veterans Miss War” and the trailer. I cannot find any reviews or details of the Region 1 DVD but if it has the same extras it would be the preferred edition. The Region 2 UK release is entitled Battle Company: Korengal but again I cannot find any details of extras.

Summary

     The documentary Korengal builds on the ground prepared by Restrepo but puts the emphasis on how the various soldiers reacted to the psychological stresses of living in an isolated base, in a difficult environment and amid a hostile population. The documentary is a testament to the soldiers, and as real as you can get. I was fascinated.

     The audio and video are good considering the filming took place in a war zone. Extras are only trailers, which is a pity.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Thursday, May 21, 2015
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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