During last year’s Academy Awards, “Restrepo” was my pick for Best Documentary Feature and even though it was beat out by “The Inside Job”, I still consider “Restrepo” one of the best documentaries of last year. “Restrepo” was personally one of the first times I felt like I was seeing something I couldn’t possibly see unless I had enlisted in the Army. With helmet cams and interviews, I was allowed an insight into the world of a soldier and the everyday tasks they endure. I already respect those who serve our country, so being able to catch a small glimpse into their lives while in battle really makes me hold them in even higher regards.

It’s fitting that this year’s Best Documentary category has a similar contender in the film “Hell And Back Again”. This documentary follows a Marine and his battalion. The film is nicely inter-cut between active duty and recovery back home. The imagery works almost too well, leaves you with a lasting picture of combat life, extensively showing the results of warfare, including the visual of a fatality that will live with me for the rest of my life. The testimonies are heartfelt and brutal, the combat is one-of-a-kind, and this films really takes you into the life of the Marine Corps.

It’s hard to compare these military documentaries with the rest of the competitors, because I get a mix of deep-rooted respect and solemn clarity of how messed up things can get during war from these films. Compare that to a film about “tree-huggers” or interpretive dancers and it leaves a valley of difference. Compared to “If A Tree Falls”, I believe “Hell And Back Again” is the superior documentary, just because it is more in-depth and heartfelt. “If A Tree Falls” is more a collection of history on the Earth Liberation Front, while “Hell And Back Again” is a character dissection of a wounded soldier and the adversity he faced while in Afghanistan. You tell me which sounds like the better film.

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