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Hell and Back Again (2011)



Average Rating: 8/10
Critic Reviews: 12
Fresh: 12 | Rotten: 0

No consensus yet.



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Average Rating: 3.7/5
User Ratings: 2,790

My Rating

Movie Info

A master filmmaker and photographer, Danfung Dennis follows 25-year-old Marine Sgt. Nathan Harris on his most difficult mission: coming home after being seriously wounded in Afghanistan. Embedded with Harris's unit during their assault on a Taliban stronghold, Dennis brilliantly toggles between the intense experience of war, stunningly photographed by the director himself, and the challenges of re-adjusting to civilian life in small town North Carolina. Hell and Back Again brings the war home in

Jan 24, 2012


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All Critics (27) | Top Critics (12) | Fresh (27) | Rotten (0) | DVD (2)

We're left to decide which wounds go the deepest, those from Afghanistan or those caused by the confusion and emotional barrages he continues to suffer in America.

August 24, 2012 Full Review Source: Toronto Star
Toronto Star
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In its closing scenes, "Hell and Back Again" builds to an emotional and stylistic power that we didn't see coming.

February 23, 2012 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times | Comment (1)
Chicago Sun-Times
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Dennis's film attempts something few documentaries have: to inhabit the psyche of its subject.

January 5, 2012 Full Review Source: Boston Globe | Comment (1)
Boston Globe
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The film suggests that it doesn't really matter whether Harris ever gets back in uniform. He's forever carrying around a piece of unexploded ordnance in his head.

November 18, 2011 Full Review Source: Washington Post
Washington Post
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Lays bare the truth of war - its hellish quality - with such power, you're not likely to look at this, or any other conflict, the same way again.

November 3, 2011 Full Review Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
Philadelphia Inquirer
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The director has no intention of making a prefab antiwar statement. He simply wants to show us an experience, just as it happened, and let the chips fall where they may.

October 20, 2011 Full Review Source: San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Hell and Back Again offers a potent documentary correlative to the narrative of The Hurt Locker.

January 3, 2012 Full Review Source: Boston Phoenix | Comment (1)
Boston Phoenix

Belies the misguided notion that a nonfiction effort on war's aftermath can't be artistically minded, and also can't somehow be as moving as (or even more so than) a scripted dramatic interpretation.

October 25, 2011 Full Review Source:

An absorbing peek into the circumstances of people whose stories usually get filtered in movies.

October 22, 2011 Full Review Source: East Bay Express
East Bay Express

A tough but deeply rewarding watch. Search it out.

October 21, 2011 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

I can't recall a documentary shaped quite this way. Dennis handles it with integrity, and the effect is painful and deeply moving.

October 16, 2011 Full Review Source: Observer [UK]
Observer [UK]

This pulls no punches.

October 13, 2011 Full Review Source: Guardian

Flashbacks, overlapping sound and dynamic editing viscerally convey Harris' state of mind, leaving a bleak picture of the struggle to win the Afghani people's trust.

October 10, 2011 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

has the artistry of a painting and the impact of a sucker punch.

October 6, 2011 Full Review Source:

Doesn't offer up much information, but carves out a sturdy slice of life portrait

October 6, 2011 Full Review Source:

Just as necessary and cinematic as Restrepo ... brilliantly structures the story of a Marine's homecoming so that the war footage functions like flashback sequences.

October 5, 2011 Full Review Source:

Possibly the best war movie of the year

October 5, 2011 Full Review Source: indieWIRE

A group of true believers in the American cause in the Afghanistan war and what happens to one of them when he comes home injured.

October 5, 2011 Full Review Source: Spirituality and Practice
Spirituality and Practice

Audience Reviews for Hell and Back Again

Hell and Back Again is a pretty average documentary that is beautifully shot, uniquely edited, but should've delved into the psychological state of mind of Sgt. Nathan Harris instead of focusing on merely the physical struggles he faces in getting back into shape and fit for combat once more. The emotional connection could definitely been stronger and more involving. Hell and Back Again features unique cinematography and editing, but is a generic, if slightly better than average documentary.
November 1, 2012
Raymond Wieser

Super Reviewer

A stirring documentary that looks at the long hard road that many ex-marines have to walk when assimilating back into civilian life. It follows the plight of Nathan Harris, who after being severely wounded in battle, must plunge head first into a new battle at home.
It has one of the most stirring opening montages I have ever seen in a documentary. It only lasts about 6 seconds, but it brilliantly sets up the rest of the film. Sadly, the film doesn't live up to the promise of the opening, but is still an important look at the modern veteran.
The filmmakers use sound to great effect, layering the sounds of combat over the minutiae of every day life. Showing that even though a soldier may leave the battle, the battle never leaves the soldier.
Also, and much more subtly, Harris is shown being escorted by his wife through a maze of shopping malls, fast-food restaurants, and packed parking lots. Harris is visibly frustrated by this way of life that appears more emotionally taxing than the front lines. Begging the question, what exactly are we fighting for over there?
May 29, 2012
Reid Volk

Super Reviewer

A rather average documentary, at least to me anyways but most critics are giving it rave reviews. I thought that the look and editing was pretty unique for a documentary and made it flow much more effectively then most other documentaries that tend to drag on in real time. The constant flashbacks, that also utilizes a sound dropout, to Sgt. Nathan Harris during his experience at war and then cutting back to everyday life at home during his recovery provide a great contrast. The film gets a little repetitive and never really delves into Sgt. Harris' psychological state of mind or his internal struggle so much as his physical battle to recover from his wounds. All in all, a decent documentary about the struggles of everyday life for our soldiers coming back from war and an interesting watch.
April 8, 2012
Chris Browning

Super Reviewer

Much like Restrepo of 2010, Hell And Back Again gives a glimpse into the life of a soldier, both during active duty and through recovery of injury and post-traumatic stress. With some bloody imagery, including the witness to the aftermath of a graphic fatality, this is, for better or worse, an unforgettable film.
February 4, 2012

Super Reviewer

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