THE HORNET’S NEST
*** (out of 5)
May 23, 2014
Carlos Boettcher as HIMSELF
Mike Boettcher as HIMSELF
Studio: Freestyle Releasing
Directed by: David Salzberg, Christian Tureaud
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Ever since America jumped feet-first into the post-9/11 war, our media has been flooded with content. Amid the hundreds of thousands of hours the 24-hour news media has devoted to the war, there have been countless books, television shows and feature films trying to make sense of the war from the civilian viewpoint.
Most recently, the film “Lone Survivor” showed the harrowing experience of a group of Navy SEALs in a firefight with the Taliban. This film kept coming to mind while I was watching the documentary “The Hornet’s Nest.” This documentary is unlike any of these films that have been released simply because of its sheer realism of what goes on in the field.
However, it was easy to compare the film to “Lone Survivor” because both films shared thematic elements, particularly what it’s like to be pinned down by the enemy in hostile territory. However, even more so, “The Hornet’s Nest” led me to respect Peter Berg (director of “Lone Survivor”) more because that was the first time I had seen a movie that got the layout and look of the territory so accurate.
The biggest difference between these movies, though, is that while “Lone Survivor” is just based on a true story, “The Hornet’s Nest” is a true story.
The documentary follows journalist Mike Boettcher as he is embedded with a group of soldiers in Afghanistan. Through the first half of the film, Boettcher brings along his adult son Carlos, with whom he has an estranged relationship because his job often took him away from home during the developmental years.
In this sense, the movie is primarily focused on the Boettchers as they acclimate to the rigors of being deployed with the troops. This is a bit awkward because the first half of the film lacks any real narrative structure. Of course, this is not surprising since Mike Boettcher is used to being a deployed reporter rather than someone making a coherent film.
However, half-way through the movie, the focus takes a turn on the soldiers, and here’s where my interest level piqued. Soon, the film ceased being about a man reconciling with his son. Carlos heads back home to safety, leaving his father to go on a potentially dangerous mission, which is to lead an assault on a major terrorist figure deep in the mountains of Afghanistan.
Bringing the focus back on the soldiers is where it needed to be all along. Soon, we get to meet these guys and have them be more than just the hosts for Boettcher and son. They become the focus, as does their camaraderie and bravery. Soon, the story takes a very dangerous turn as the team is pinned down by the enemy for days.
Here’s where we see the ugly side of the war, and the film takes politics out of the mix. Instead, we see what the soldiers do – and what they sacrifice – for each other. It’s a heartbreaking look at the realities of war.
The film falters a bit near the end when the filmmakers try to bring things full circle, and suddenly the movie is about Mike Boettcher. That was a mistake, and the powerful story of the troops should have been left to resonate with the audience.
Still, as a whole, “The Hornet’s Nest” is a powerful movie that shows what really happens on the ground during a conflict like this, and it’s very apropos to view around Memorial Day.