The stirring, masterfully constructed documentary "Apache Warrior" makes intriguing use of three recovered flight tapes from a squadron of U.S. Apache fighter helicopters that launched a deep attack in Iraq at the start of the war in March 2003.
Co-producer-directors David Salzberg and Christian Tureaud track the events of this fraught, admittedly unsuccessful, if seminal, combat strike in quasi-real-time by nimbly combining the taut cockpit footage and audio with new commentary from the mission's actual aviators (all male but one), bits of animated diagramming, still photos and narrative title cards.
Between the vivid interviews with a swath of military folks and the unprecedented visuals offering a kind of you-are-there excitement, the movie immerses viewers into a super-tense, rarely dissected environment. The battle's climax, in which a U.S. flyer is shot, is especially involving.
Still, for all but the most initiated, an extra dose of patience may be required: The subject matter can often feel arcane; the cockpit videos are, by nature, hazy; and, save an archival speech from then-President Bush, there's minimal context about the Iraq war and America's place within it.
Most importantly, though, the film undeniably highlights the commitment, courage and resourcefulness these true-life heroes showed in the face of grave danger.
Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes
Playing: Arena Cinelounge Sunset, Hollywood