NY Times: War Made Terrifyingly Palpable in ‘Citizen Soldier’

By August 4, 2016Press

The tension in “Citizen Soldier” is enough to make you gnaw through your fingernails. This documentary, which follows a group of American G.I.s in Afghanistan in 2011, uses footage taken during their missions, sometimes via their own helmet cams. The sense of danger is palpable, as is the sense of misery after the most dreadful scenes.

“War is boring until it’s punctured by these moments of heart-stopping terror,” one soldier says. He and the others are members of the Oklahoma Army National Guard, and their civilian roles are varied: hospital workers, mechanics, police officers. After their deployment to Afghanistan, however, they band together to secure territory and engage the enemy.

Their duties range from the mundane to the perilous, and the footage, edited by Jason Mergott (David Salzberg and Christian Tureaud are the directors), conveys a good sense of their operations, even amid the confusions of battle. Scenes in which bullets whiz past, and bombs explode nearby, are terrifying. Nothing here comes off as contrived or overexplained, making it all feel still more immersive. Only the added music can be distracting.

Just as notable are the film’s respectful tone and its lack of cheerleading. No political screeds are delivered; also absent are debates over the war or over the inevitable problems that arrive in its aftermath. The choice isn’t an oversight, but a chance to provide a straightforward account of these men and their work.

That directness only heightens the esteem due these soldiers, even if they are reluctant to see themselves as admirable. Perhaps that’s the thing about the brave — they don’t think of themselves as such.

KEN JAWOROWSKI

“Citizen Soldier” is rated R (under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian) for scenes of warfare and the resulting casualties.

Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/05/movies/citizen-soldier-review.html?nlid=8563333&_r=1

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