Restrepo (film)

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Restrepo poster.jpg
Directed byTim Hetherington
Sebastian Junger
Produced byTim Hetherington
Sebastian Junger
CinematographySebastian Junger
Tim Hetherington
Jake Clennell (Italy Interviews)
Edited byMichael Levine
Distributed byNational Geographic Entertainment
Release dates
  • January 21, 2010 (2010-01-21) (Sundance)
  • June 25, 2010 (2010-06-25) (United States)[1]
Running time
93 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
Box office$1,436,391 (worldwide)[3]

Restrepo is a 2010 American documentary film about the War in Afghanistan directed by British photojournalist Tim Hetherington and American journalist Sebastian Junger. It explores the year that Junger and Hetherington spent, on assignment for Vanity Fair,[4] in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley, embedded with the Second Platoon, B Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team of the U.S. Army. The Second Platoon is depicted defending the outpost (OP) named after a platoon medic who was killed earlier in the campaign, PFC Juan Sebastián Restrepo, who was a Colombian-born naturalized U.S. citizen.[5] The directors stated that the film is not a war advocacy documentary, they simply "wanted to capture the reality of the soldiers."[6]


After some footage of four inebriated soldiers shot by PFC Juan Sebastián Restrepo a week before deployment, text is displayed that reads: "In May 2007, the men of Second Platoon, Battle Company began a 15 month deployment in the Korengal Valley of eastern Afghanistan. It was considered one of the most dangerous postings in the U.S. Military." The Korengal flows north to the Pech, which then flows east to the Kunar River Valley on Afghanistan's porous border with Pakistan. American soldiers and supplies were ferried into the remote Combat Outpost (COP) Korengal by Chinook helicopters. As an example of the ever-present dangers faced by the soldiers in the area, the first scene in the film that takes place in Afghanistan depicts a fire-fight after a military Hummer is disabled on a narrow mountain road by an IED.

The remainder of the film chronicles the lives of the men of Second Platoon from a few months after their arrival in the Korengal Valley to the time of their return home. Early in their deployment, PFC Vimoto was killed in action, and the unit lost PFC Restrepo, their medic, shortly after. When Capt. Dan Kearney decided to construct an advanced outpost, the men chose to call it "OP Restrepo", which is where most of the film takes place. At Restrepo, the men came under fire almost daily, and often multiple times in a single day, from shifting enemy positions in the surrounding landscape.

In addition to interrupting the flow of Taliban troops and weapons through the Korengal Valley, a major goal for the American troops was to provide security for the construction of a road and gain the trust of the populace. The film portrays negotiations and interactions between the soldiers and local leaders and citizens, some of which are congenial, and some of which are more antagonistic.

A significant portion of the second half of the film consists of a depiction of Operation Rock Avalanche, which took place in October 2007. During the dangerous mission to hunt Taliban fighters in the Korengal Valley, Battle Company lost Staff Sergeant Larry Rougle[7] during an ambush by a large number of enemies. Sgt. Rougle was at point and took the brunt of the attack, allowing his soldiers to secure a position and fight. A recipient of the Purple Heart who served two tours in Iraq and three in Afghanistan, Sgt. Rougle was subsequently buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

According to Junger, Restrepo is a film, not just about the events of combat, but also about "brotherhood",[8] and it shows the soldiers' dedication to their duty, as well as their commitment to one another. Interspersed throughout the film are excerpts from interviews recorded with some of the soldiers after Second Platoon returned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team's base near Vicenza, Italy, in which the men candidly reflect on their experiences, feelings about those who were wounded or killed, and the emotional distress they will carry with them.

Before the credits roll, text is displayed that reads: "In April 2010, the United States withdrew from the Korengal Valley. Nearly 50 American soldiers died fighting there."

Post-film events[edit]

For his actions during Operation Rock Avalanche, Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta from 2nd Battalion, who is not featured in the film, would later become the first living person to receive the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War.[9][10] Sergeant Kyle J. White (also from 2nd Battalion, but not featured in the film) later received the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Battle of Aranas on November 9, 2007.

On 20 April 2011, Tim Hetherington (one of the directors, producers, and cinematographers of Restrepo) was killed by shrapnel from either a mortar shell or an RPG fired by Libyan forces whilst covering the First Libyan Civil War.


The film received the Grand Jury Prize: Documentary at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.[11] On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, it has a "Certified Fresh" rating of 96% based on 118 reviews, with an average score of 8.1/10; the website's "critics consensus" reads: "Forsaking narrative structure for pure visceral power, Restrepo plunges viewers into the experiences of soldiers on the front lines of the Afghan War."[12] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 85 out of 100, based on 33 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[13]

Roger Ebert awarded the film four out of four stars,[14] and numerous critics and publications included it in their lists of the best films of 2010.[15][16][17] The National Board of Review named it one of the top documentary films of 2010, and it was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 83rd Academy Awards, losing to Inside Job.[18]


In March 2014, Realscreen magazine revealed that Junger was working on a sequel to Restrepo, titled Korengal.[19] The followup was released in theaters in New York on May 30, 2014, with a pay-VOD release following that September. Korengal "departs from the vérité style of the original somewhat, as it features an original score and some archival news footage",[19] though nearly all of the footage consists of material from Hetherington and Junger's visits to the Korengal Valley in 2007 and 2008, and the subsequent interviews with soldiers done in Italy, that had not been used in Restrepo.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Restrepo – Theatrical Release". International Documentary Association. Retrieved December 1, 2010.
  2. ^ "Restrepo (15)". British Board of Film Classification. September 20, 2010. Retrieved May 9, 2014.
  3. ^ "Restrepo (2010)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved December 1, 2010.
  4. ^ Into the Valley of Death, Sebastian Junger, Vanity Fair, January 2008 article, discusses the strategic value of the Korengal Valley.
  5. ^ An up-close yet impersonal look at war, Wesley Morris, Boston Globe movie review.
  6. ^ "'Restrepo' Directors: Why It's All War ... No Politics Allowed". TheWrap. July 1, 2010. Retrieved April 19, 2021.
  7. ^ Rubin, Elizabeth (February 24, 2008). "Afghanistan – Korengal Valley – United States Military – Counterinsurgency". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved August 26, 2016.
  8. ^ Junger, Sebastian, Why veterans miss war, retrieved August 26, 2016
  9. ^ "President Obama Presents the Medal of Honor to Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta: "We're All in Your Debt"". Retrieved January 11, 2016 – via National Archives.
  10. ^ Hetherington, Tim (November 11, 2010). "Medal of Honor Winner Salvatore Giunta on Bravery, Brotherhood, and the Korengal". Vanity Fair. Retrieved November 7, 2013.
  11. ^ Addicott, Brooks (January 30, 2010). "2010 Sundance Film Festival Announces Awards". Sundance Institute. Retrieved November 30, 2010.
  12. ^ "Restrepo". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 9, 2014.
  13. ^ "Restrepo" – via
  14. ^ Restrepo review, Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times.
  15. ^ David Denby (December 7, 2010). "The Best (and Worst) Films of the Year". The New Yorker. Retrieved January 11, 2016.
  16. ^ "2010 in review: Betsy Sharkey on film". Los Angeles Times.
  17. ^ PartB Film Awards 2011 – The Beaver Archived May 25, 2012, at
  18. ^ "Record | Columbia News". Archived from the original on December 3, 2014.
  19. ^ a b Benzine, Adam (March 31, 2014). "Exclusive: Junger, Goldcrest to self-release 'Restrepo' sequel". Realscreen. Retrieved April 1, 2014.

External links[edit]

Preceded by Sundance Grand Jury Prize: U.S. Documentary
Succeeded by