Monday, May 28, 2012


Hell and Back Again tells the story of Sergeant Nathan Harris, a veteran who led his group of Marines in Afghanistan, but is now finding returning home a difficult prospect. He’s dealing with wounds both psychological and physical. Healing is hard. Director Danfung Dennis cuts between Harris’s home life and his past tour of duty in startlingly intuitive ways. This is an electrifying war movie that explores the impact of combat both on the front lines and in the soldier’s minds. That it’s a documentary makes it all the more engrossing; it’s real life skillfully shot and edited like a thriller. These artful decisions make for good filmmaking, great storytelling, but shakier veracity. When footage of Harris at home is overlaid with sounds of Afghanistan, the filmmaking leads one to believe that that’s what the man is thinking about. How can we, or the filmmakers, possibly know what’s going on inside this man’s mind? These attempts to dramatize interiority that would be simply at home as part of a narrative take on a more problematic nature when nestled inside a documentary. But what power the final film has. Like Werner Herzog, Dennis is after, not the absolute literal truth, but a truthful mood, capturing the essence, the feeling, and the emotion of a returning wounded soldier. This is a strong, troubling film that’s powerfully mournful, deeply empathetic and upsetting in a slick, insinuating way.

1 comment:

  1. Definitely gave me a very disturbing and different look at what troops go through after the war, and I'm actually in a Facebook group that is raising money for this guy and family. I'm no saint by any means, but it's all for a good cause. Good review.