|Directed by||Sebastian Junger|
|Produced by||Nick Quested|
|Edited by||Michael Levine|
|Music by||Marty Beller|
Gold Crest Films, Outpost Films
Korengal is a 2014 documentary that picks up where the film Restrepo left off, taking the viewer deeper into soldiers' experiences of war in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan. The film consists of closeup interviews with soldiers in a platoon stationed at outpost Restrepo, during and after their deployment. Most of the reviews of the documentary have been favorable.
The documentary uses film footage shot between 2007 and 2008 by photojournalist Tim Hetherington, who died in 2011 while reporting on the Libyan Civil War. Hetherington spent approximately 10 months with 'Battle' Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, U.S. Army at Restrepo outpost. The 2010 documentary Restrepo was nominated for an Academy Award. After the documentary Restrepo was made, there was still a considerable amount of film left over.
About a year later Sebastian Junger started to work on Korengal, but it was difficult to do without Hetherington. Junger's aim was to create a follow-up documentary that delved deeper into the individual soldier's experiences and emotions of combat. It is intended to differ from its predecessor, Restrepo—which was intended to make the viewer feel what it was like to be in combat—by deconstructing what war does to the individual soldier.
Junger wanted to express the complexity of the experiences of combat for soldiers:
One of the things I wanted to communicate with this film is that combat is a lot of things. It is not just one thing. It is very exciting for everybody. It is very scary for everybody. It is incredibly meaningful. It is very, very sad if you stop and think about what you are doing.
The documentary takes place between 2007 and 2008 in the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan. The film consists mainly of interviews with men in a platoon stationed at outpost Restrepo. Forty-two soldiers died in Korengal Valley before the United States pulled out in April 2010. Unlike Restrepo, which was a film mostly about battle, Korengal examines the military life and experiences of those same men. The men are filmed in extreme closeup as they are interviewed; they express the most intense fear and exhilaration they ever experienced while in combat. They express bonds between each other that go beyond the intensity of their own family ties. One soldier states that he would gladly die for one of his fellow soldiers.
Whereas Restrepo showed the "high" of combat, Korengal expresses more bitterness. Many of the soldiers interviewed after their deployment missed the camaraderie of the other men, missed the adrenaline of war, and the excitement of "cheating death." One soldier expressed this simply as "I'd go back there if I could."
Most reviews have been favorable with an 86% rating reported by Rotten Tomatoes. David Denby in The New Yorker describes the film together with Restrepo "As a record of the war, the two films are imperishable." Justin Chang in Variety describes the film as "a worthy companion piece to Restrepo with this more reflective dispatch from the front lines of Afghanistan." A few critiques, such as Ed Gonzalez in Slant Magazine, have found the documentary meandering. Gonzalez writes the movie is "an alternately gripping and dully meandering patchwork of these soldiers' simultaneously chill and quite literally maddening stay in the Korengal that pointedly shuns big-picture philosophizing."
- Reaney, Patricia (29 May 2014). "War documentary 'Korengal' explores consequences of combat". Reuters. Archived from the original on 1 June 2014. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
- NPR Staff (31 May 2014). "What Is Courage?: 'Korengal' Breaks Down War In Afghanistan". NPR. Archived from the original on 1 June 2014. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
- Holden, Stephen (29 May 2014). "Haunted by Combat, Yet Missing the Brethren: In 'Korengal,' U.S. Soldiers Recall Their Time in Afghanistan". New York Times. Archived from the original on 1 June 2014. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
- Denby, Davie (2014). "Korengal". The New Yorker. Archived from the original on 1 June 2014. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
- "Korengal (2014)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
- Chang, Justin (30 May 2014). "Film Review: 'Korengal'". Variety. Archived from the original on 1 June 2014. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
- Gonzalez, Ed (26 May 2014). "Korengal". Slant Magazine. Archived from the original on 1 June 2014. Retrieved 1 June 2014.