There’s some powerful stuff about modern soldiering and military culture in Greg Barker’s brief documentary on the first American soldiers to enter Afghanistan after 9/11. As a reporter, Barker is the right man for the job: he manages the special kind of rapport you’d need to get an Army Ranger to stand on a mountaintop in uniform and recite Wilfred Owen’s war poem “Futility” — to say nothing of another vet’s admission that “Eleven days after I retired, I put my wife in the hospital.” There’s some bitterness on display, plenty of sadness, and an abundance of cameraderie. But mostly, there’s just an impressive frankness — about both tragedies and triumphs. (These Special Forces operatives were given exactly the sort of difficult, dramatic mission they signed on for — overthrow the Taliban, scatter Al-Qaeda — and they made the most of their opportunity.) But as a storyteller, he’s too willing to go for the TV-drama visual effect, the manipulative soundtrack, the shot held on the subject as he stops talking and chokes up. Still, even the stagey bits convey a measure of complicated reality. (2017) — Matthew Lickona
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