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'Korengal' looks at the psychological effects after the battle

'Korengal' focuses on the U.S. soldiers who went through hell in Afghanistan

With the 2010 film "Restrepo," war documentarians Sebastian Junger and the late Tim Hetherington brought a searing immediacy to the Afghanistan conflict, relaying the day-to-day of soldiers deployed on a brutal, exposed, rocky outpost known for incessant firefighting with the Taliban.

Now comes "Korengal," a new assemblage from Junger of the material he and Hetherington gathered from their time with the men of Battle Company. (The title refers to the six-mile-long "valley of death" where the soldiers were posted.)

Although "Korengal" may not seem terribly different, in structure and tone, it is. Where "Restrepo" fed off the deliberately haphazard, you-are-there swings of waiting and fighting thrillingly captured by Junger and Hetherington, "Korengal" adopts a thematic skeleton led by the reflective interviews conducted with the soldiers after their deployment. The focus is on the psychology of wartime existence, descriptions of sights, sounds and feelings, girded by the rité footage rather than driven by it.

The cumulative effect is an insight similar to that after viewing "Restrepo," that fighting a war is a moment-to-moment reckoning of mental and physical discipline. Courage, loss, brotherhood, boredom, craving excitement yet dreading the situation that fosters it, then leaving it behind — "Korengal" is a bracing reminder of the inexplicable will to endure hell and come out the other side alive.



MPAA rating: R for language and brief nudity.

Running time: 1 hour, 24 minutes.

Playing: At Landmark's Nuart, Los Angeles.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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