“Korengal” By Sebastian Junger: Soldiers’ Experience

Whereas the 2010 film Restrepo chronicled what it was like for a certain company of soldiers fighting the war in Afghanistan, Sebastian Junger‘s follow-up, Korengal, “allows the soldiers themselves to talk about the fear, courage and camaraderie of life during wartime in their own words. “Same valley, same soldiers,” the movie’s trailer proclaims. “Different journey.”

Junger explains to Rolling Stone how this sequel came to be. “…(O)nce we started sifting through what we had, he [Michael Levine, editor on Restrepo] came up with this wonderful idea of taking the structure of my book War, and imposing the three sections I used there — Fear, Killing and Love, which are the three emotional experiences of combat, as I see it — on to the footage we hadn’t used. Once we finally decided that was the route to take, the movie felt like it sprung out of the material right away.”

To Suzanne Curtis Campbell, Documentary.org: “We did the interviews two months after the deployment ended. The soldiers talked about their feelings because their feelings were extremely powerful. And so were ours. There were interviews where everyone was crying. All of us, including the two filmmakers, had a pretty good case of PTSD. So you have people with PTSD interviewing other people with PTSD.”

Campbell on some of the film’s insights: “An honest look at a complex situation reveals an experience constructed as a series of paradoxical moments: The soldiers describe combat as an experience other people ‘can’t understand,’ yet they often reflect about not understanding their own combat experience and the love/hate cycle it provokes. Another soldier mourns having to do terrible things, yet says, if given the chance, he would make the same choice again.”

You can watch the film’s trailer below:

Selected Reviews

Suzanne Curtis CampbellDocumentary.org: “Such a close examination of soldiers in combat is evocative, offering the audience an immersive, riveting, and, at times, meditative window into a usually unseen world. The platoon’s story is told in a simple, direct way. But like the experience it documents, Korengal is also challenging and complicated.”

Justin Chang, Variety: “The notion that ‘war is a drug,’ which provided the central thesis of Kathryn Bigelow’s Iraq War-set drama ‘The Hurt Locker,’ gets an even more thorough workout here…Junger doesn’t shy away from some of the more troubling aspects of life in this lonely place, from the unapologetic gun-lust with which the men survey their weapons, to the briefly glimpsed scenes of roughhousing and hazing (plus the occasional gay epithet).”

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