Reporting on the reasons why we go to war and what happens during and after is important. But what is there to say about war that hasn’t already been said? Common themes like loyalty, honor and brotherhood have all been explored in every medium, and after a decade of war during the Internet age — where messages are drilled into your head — countless hours of real and raw combat footage has been made available.
When watching “The Hornet’s Nest” I get the idea that the filmmakers probably understood that, and probably also understood that the masses, when overstimulated, can become desensitized.
The documentary follows journalist Mike Boettcher as he embeds himself with U.S. military units patrolling off-the-grid towns and the rocky mountainsides of Afghanistan. During the film Boettcher is accompanied by his son, Carlos, who joins his father as a sort of bonding experience and perhaps to also experience the world he’s only seen on TV.
While blood and gore are mostly absent from the screen, the violence is present. As gunfire erupts, bullets whizz by, rocks disintegrate, men take cover, and gunfire is returned. At one point, Carlos shares an intimate moment with a soldier as they’re pinned in between rocks on the side of a mountain. While the sniper seems to be shooting at random, any one of the rounds could be fatal. As their heart rate increases and breathing gets heavier, both men maintain composure until they see a way out.
Following shootouts, men — journalists and soldiers — are interviewed. Their faces are sweaty and red, and their hands shake, rocking the cigarette wedged between their fingers, yet they look relieved like a man after working in the yard for hours under the hot summer sun.
At that moment, you realize that while the journalist may not be fighting, it is important for him to be there. To document the effort the brave men and women in the U.S. military are forced to face on a daily basis when deployed to war.
But again, the film is not about the journalist, it’s about how U.S. troops carry themselves in the theater of war. The filmmakers argue that there are countless acts of heroism that the public does not know about — something the DoD has taken into consideration.
“Professionalism” is the keyword here. Managing danger is part of the job for an infantryman. Courageous acts become commonplace — so much so that there’s very little time for one to reflect. Emotions like fear and sadness are put on hold and reserved for moments like a soldier’s funeral following a bloody raid.
“The Hornet’s Nest” released this weekend, but there will be more showings May 16 and May 23 in select theaters across the country.