Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Hell and Back Again

Release Date: 2011
Production Company:
Director: Danfung Dennis
Run time: 88 minutes
Seen on: Netflix DVD and Watch Instantly, showing on PBS May 24 10pm
Recommended: Yes, but not an easy viewing
Rotten Tomato Rating: 100%

With the Academy Awards coming up, I decided to try and watch this years nominees for Best documentary.  There are only two available on DVD so far.  "Hell and Back Again" is the first one I watched.

"Hell and Back Again" follows Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines in their deployment in Afghanistan.  The documentary features imbedded footage from Afghanistan and follows the life of Sgt. Nathan Harris after being wounded by machine gun fire in Afghanistan.

I was first impressed with the quality of the footage in Afghanistan.  The picture was extremely clear and stable.  It looked closer to a feature film or digital film rather than a documentary.  I was pleased with the quality of footage taken within the Marines.  After watching the Bonus Material on the DVD, I learned that the director, Danfung Dennis, used a custom Steadicam rig to ensure the smoothness of his footage.  It was also interesting to learn that his camera was one typcially used to shoot digital shorts.

The documentary intercuts Echo Company in Afghanistan with Sgt. Harris' life in North Carolina after his return.  Sgt. Harris was hit by machine gun fire in his right hip and leg.  His ongoing struggle of recovery is difficult to watch.  You see Harris' physical, emotional, and mental struggles upon his return.  He struggles more with navigating a Wal-Mart parking lot than an insurgent zone in Afghanistan.

This documentary tells the necessary story of the transition from a warrior to a Wounded Warrior.  Although it focuses on Sgt. Harris, you also see the struggle of his wife and friends.  This is not an easy or light viewing although I believe it needs to be seen.  While watching, I was reminded of "Restrepo," because it was difficult to watch, but something necessary for all to see.


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