Restrepo (Blu-ray) (2010)

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Released 5-Oct-2011

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Deleted Scenes
Interviews-Cast-Additional Interviews
Featurette-Updates on the soldiers
Short Film-Sleeping Soldiers
More…-Public Service Announcements x 3
Trailer-x 4, but none for this film
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2010
Running Time 93:41
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Tim Hetherington
Sebastian Junger
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring None Given
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $29.95 Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080i
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

     Between May 2007 and July 2008 author Sebastian Junger (The Perfect Storm) and photographer Tim Hetherington lived among the men of the Second Platoon, Battle Company, 503 Infantry Regiment, 173 Airborne, on deployment in the Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, eastern Afghanistan. The result is Restrepo, a sometimes harrowing, sometimes beautiful, always candid documentary about soldiers on duty in the place christened the “Valley of Death”. I have already reviewed the DVD of the documentary here. Those familiar with the DVD may like to skip to the technical sections of this review to see how the Blu-ray compares.

     Two months into their deployment, the Second Platoon established OP (outpost) Restrepo on a hilltop 700 metres away from their base on the valley floor. The OP was named after Private Juan Restrepo, a medic who had been killed earlier in their deployment; the intention of the OP was to draw the Taliban to them and in this they succeeded. This film, created from the footage shot by Junger and Hetherington, is not about the right or wrong of the war, government policy, strategy or generals. Rather it is about soldiers doing what they have been ordered to do; patrolling, meeting with Afghan elders in the weekly shura, relaxing and facing death from the Taliban fighters on a daily basis.

     Restrepo was nominated for best documentary at the 2011 Oscars but lost out to Inside Job. Restrepo is a compelling documentary about the soldiers’ day to day existence on the front line (if “front line” is the right term in a conflict such as Afghanistan). There is no voiceover narration to explain the bigger picture; instead, the film is held together by occasional location captions as well as interviews conducted with surviving members of the platoon in Italy after their tour in Afghanistan. However, the film is mainly raw, almost structureless, footage filmed with hand held cameras by Junger and Hetherington from the midst of the action, as well as candid footage of soldiers relaxing. In the interviews we find out about the soldiers’ fear and exhilaration, the terror of Operation Rock Avalanche, their sorrow as friends are killed, the story of the soldier who was not allowed to play with toy guns as a child, the frustration of Captain Dan Kearney at the suspicion of the valley elders, his sadness at the civilian deaths. Misunderstandings also occur that are almost comic, such as the death of a cow that become tangled in the OP defensive wire. The action, be it roadside bombs, ambushes or fire fights in both bush and the village, is stark, immediate and harrowing in its intensity. In contrast, there are scenes of soldiers horsing around as well as almost idyllic pictures of the Afghan mountains in all seasons that are breathtakingly beautiful.

     The irony and sadness is that the sacrifice of these men, and others like them, was wasted, as after 5 years of conflict in the valley which resulted in almost 50 US dead, in April 2010 all US forces withdrew from the Korengal Valley for good, leaving the Afghans to themselves. The number of Afghan deaths, innocent civilians and fighters, was not recorded.

     Restrepo is a harrowing, sometimes beautiful, always candid documentary of men at war. For a companion piece, try Armadillo, a documentary shot on the front line in Helmand Province Afghanistan that follows the deployment of a group of Danish soldiers which I reviewed in this site here.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Restrepo is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 which I believe is the original ratio, in 1080i. While the post deployment interviews are sharp and detailed, the footage from the Korengal Valley is very diverse. Contrast is variable, blacks and shadow detail doggy, there is motion blur but colours are good and natural. Heavy grain is evident in many sequences.

     Given the nature of source material and the fact that the HD is 1080i, this was never going to be a demonstration Blu-ray. At both ends of the scale, the interview sequences on one hand and the night hand held footage, there is no noticeable improvement over the DVD. However, in the middle of these two extremes the mid-range sequences do exhibit an improvement in detail that is noticeable.

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

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

Audio

     Audio in the Blu-ray is not an advance on the DVD. In fact, the Blu-ray has the same specification as the DVD - an English Dolby Digital 5.1 encoded at 448 Kbps - but adds a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo at 224 Kbps.

     The interview segments were clean but the Afghan location audio is very diverse. Some of the dialogue, especially radio dialogue, is indistinct but one should not expect pristine audio in the middle of a fire-fight with the Taliban! Both the 5.1 and 2.0 audio tracks are centre oriented with little in the surrounds. The sub woofer was mostly silent but did support music and the occasional explosion.

     Lip synchronisation was fine.

     There is no original score, only a traditional Afghan song plus some rock songs. This absence of music adds to the feeling of being on the ground with the soldiers in a real environment.

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

Extras

     The Blu-ray extras are substantially the same as the DVD, with new extras being only a short film and three Public Service Announcements. The BD misses out on the Restrepo trailer. Trailers on the BD are different to the DVD.

Deleted Scenes

     Sixteen deleted scenes of varying length from 0:32 to 3:03, totalling 20:25. Same quality as scenes in the film, some are very interesting.

Additional Interviews

     Sections of interviews taped with the soldiers in Italy that were not used in the film. Sections ranging between 8:24 and 0:47, totalling 26:13.

Where Are They Now?

     One or two silent text pages, some with pictures, for 18 Second Platoon soldiers.

Sleeping Soldiers (4:46)

     A short film by Tim Hetherington of images from his book Infidel of sleeping soldiers dreaming of the conflict in Afghanistan. New

PSAs

     Three public service announcements (1:03, 2:12 and 8:36) about coping with returning home and support for the families of fallen soldiers. New

Trailers

     Trailers for other films: Amreeka (2:17), The Way We Get By (2:01), The Wildest Dream: Conquest of Everest (1:56) and The Way Back (2:07).

R4 vs R1

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

     This BD release from Madman is coded Region A / B / C and is exactly the same as the US edition in specifications and extras, right down to the same trailers and the FBI warning.

Summary

     Restrepo is a sometimes harrowing, sometimes beautiful, always candid documentary about young men in the line of fire – for real. The video of the BD is a small improvement over the DVD but the audio is the same. Extras are also basically the same as the DVD; if you own the DVD an upgrade is probably not warranted unless you really need the HD. If you don’t own the DVD, but do want to understand what the coalition troops in Afghanistan face every day, you should see Restrepo.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Thursday, January 05, 2012
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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