Review: Afghanistan war documentary ‘The Hornet’s Nest’ embeds you

Mike Boettcher in "The Hornet's Nest."
(Highroad Entertainment)

The Afghanistan war documentary “The Hornet’s Nest” is a kinetic, immersive experience, particularly in its deeply felt human moments.

The film goes inside America’s long-fought conflict in Afghanistan as ABC News correspondent and veteran war reporter Mike Boettcher and his adult son, Carlos, embed with an elite group of U.S. troops engaged in a series of deadly, front-line missions.

The you-are-there video footage, largely shot by Mike and Carlos (under the auspices of the movie’s co-directors, David Salzberg and Christian Tureaud), is generally rough and tumble, until it gives way to a more solemn, emotional conclusion. While it’s often vivid, visceral stuff, glimpses of gore and extreme violence are perhaps purposefully kept in check.

Though there’s little sociopolitical context or strategic explanation offered for the various anti-Taliban operations on display, the film, shot over two years, covers a gamut of gripping warfare scenarios: ambushes, IED (improvised explosive device) threats, acts of valor, grave injuries, medical procedures and the inevitable deaths.


The Boettcher men, too often separated by the globe-trotting Mike’s long absences on assignment, use this shared experience as a bonding tool. Though Carlos eventually returns home while Mike stays on, a moving closeness develops between them. (The pair went on to become the only father and son to win an Emmy Award for the same news story, their coverage of 2011’s Operation Strong Eagle 3.)

“Nest” also gets up close and personal with a valiant cross-section of American soldiers and officers, which adds further essential intimacy to the fraught proceedings.


“The Hornet’s Nest”

MPAA Rating: R for language throughout

Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes.

Playing: At AMC Burbank Town Center 6; AMC Orange 30; Edwards Long Beach Stadium 26.