Hell and Back Again (2011)
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 ways that make gun-toting soldiering look like a day at the beach compared with the physical and psychic scars that manifest upon returning home. -- (C) Docurama … More
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Critic Reviews for Hell and Back Again
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.
In its closing scenes, "Hell and Back Again" builds to an emotional and stylistic power that we didn't see coming.
Dennis's film attempts something few documentaries have: to inhabit the psyche of its subject.
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.
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.
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.
Hell and Back Again offers a potent documentary correlative to the narrative of The Hurt Locker.
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.
An absorbing peek into the circumstances of people whose stories usually get filtered in movies.
I can't recall a documentary shaped quite this way. Dennis handles it with integrity, and the effect is painful and deeply moving.
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.
Doesn't offer up much information, but carves out a sturdy slice of life portrait
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.
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.More
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?
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.More
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.More
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