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Hell and Back Again [DVD]

Danfung Dennis    Exempt   DVD
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
Price: 7.36 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Product details

  • Directors: Danfung Dennis
  • Format: PAL
  • Language: Castilian
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: Exempt
  • Studio: Independent
  • DVD Release Date: 23 Jan 2012
  • Run Time: 88 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0062NXDNK
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 25,128 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)


Product Description

Acclaimed photojournalist Danfung Dennis takes us on an extraordinary journey to the frontline and back in this outstanding film debut. Embedded with the Marines on the ground in Afghanistan, Dennis offers a brutally personal perspective of combat life. But it is when the camera captures a Taliban bullet ripping through Sergeant Nathan Harris body that our remarkable journey begins to unfold. Distressed, in immense physical pain and unexpectedly forced back into civilian life, Nathan s biggest battle is about to begin. This multi award-winning film explores a soldier s return home with an intimacy never before seen. Hailed by one critic as one of the greatest war films of this generation , HELL AND BACK AGAIN will make you question everything you thought you knew about the true cost of war.

Audio Commentary
Technical Gear Demo
Willie Nelson "Hell and Back"
Q&A with Producers

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Documentary: In Combat and Back Home 27 Jan 2012
This documentary was filmed by Danfung Dennis. Danfung is a photojournalist and was embedded with U.S.M.C., Company E, 2nd Battalion, in a 2009 assault on Taliban forces in southern Afghanistan. This is not the standard documentary; we see appropriately sanitized war footage along with life when returning home. The subject in this case was 25 yr. old Sargent Nathan Harris who was wounded in his last mission before returning home.

There is combat footage along with the Marines social mission of working with the local population and winning their confidence. The populace knows the U.S presence will eventually leave and they fear the Taliban reprisals, so it is a thankless task for our marines. We get to watch these interactions as the occur in this documentary.

Danfung has taken the editing approach of of taking the viewer from combat to home and back again seemed too work well. He does not do any interviews and lets the scenes speak for themselves, though he did edit the film so it is his view we are seeing. But it is a real view...though the war zone is worse than pictured as is what Sgt. Harris must have gone through too even reach his therapy and being at home with his wife. You can see the amount of drugs they use too aid in his therapy to reduce the time required in interaction with medical and counseling personal.

At least now with the new laws Sgt Harris had the choice too stay in the service and is getting better treatment than if he had left. But it is obvious in the documentary that he is dealing with combat fatigue, what we today call Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD.) And every returning soldier lies about on their exit forms when leaving the theater of operation so they can get home. (This procedure is not shown in the documentary.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I was really surprised with the real close up action on the one hand and the personal struggles of the wounded soldier's homecoming recovery. The tragedy of this war hits you with the story which is authentic and well shot. The documentary is about half war action and half the reality of recovering from being wounded. No pomp, just authentic. Guys like these from all countries who served deserve support. "Hurrah"
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars 12 Aug 2014
By Stefan
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Didnt go much 9n this film
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars  58 reviews
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Intimate Documentary About Men In Combat, Modern Warfare, And The Road Home 31 Dec 2011
By K. Harris - Published on
There have been a number of films made about men in combat and/or men returning home from conflict. Any documentary feature about our involvement in recent military events may have the tendency to turn the primary topic to political debate. That's fine as subject matter, but sometimes a more simplistic and candid approach can speak volumes louder than any pointed analysis or commentary. Danfung Dennis' intimate chronicle of one Marine unit's presence in Afghanistan places the focus exactly where it should be--on the soldiers. This is about as realistic a glimpse as you're likely to get at the realities of day to day existence in modern warfare. Photojournalist Danfung was embedded with Echo Company in a 2009 assault on Taliban forces in southern Afghanistan. As such, he was privy to film the everyday struggles pursuing the enemy faction while interacting with the locals. As you might expect, he documents a number of firefights, injuries and even casualties. But he also films many interaction with town elders about how to navigate a peaceful and respectful coexistence. Danfung's presence is never intrusive and his viewpoint really makes you understand the social climate the soldiers dealt with.

But far more than just an in-country document, Danfung crosscuts and juxtaposes the Afghanistan footage with the personal story of Sergeant Nathan Harris as he readjusts to home life after returning from Echo Company with a rather traumatic injury. For the most part, Harris is the voice of the piece. Danfung doesn't conduct typical interviews, the men in Afghanistan aren't explored in depth, and what we're left with is Harris. He represents the every man persona, or every soldier in this case. He is the consummate soldier, seeing nothing outside of being able to return to his duties. But seeing him work toward recuperation and deal with the aftermath of being in battle is a sometimes harrowing, sometimes uncomfortable portrait. Harris is both a noble figure and one permanently affected by his experiences and injuries. This psychological examination is all the more potent in that it has no particular agenda. It just puts a camera in front of Harris, and the film lets Harris speak for himself.

I really admired this piece and its extremely personal focus. There is no moralizing or political grandstanding or posturing. This is about every day life for soldiers at war and at home. Different viewers will likely take different things out of the movie. But it successfully conveys a reality and intimacy that distinguish it from the pack. It's a quiet film, a subtle one really, but in this apprach--it really gets under your skin in an affecting way. Not only is it a fantastic picture of the modern soldier, it is also terrific filmmaking. And that should also be noted and appreciated. I know this Sundance Award winner is on the shortlist for Oscar consideration as Best Documentary feature--I certainly hope it makes the cut. KGHarris, 12/11.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First Hand Account of the Realities of War 27 Jan 2012
By Hector F. - Published on
Format:Blu-ray|Verified Purchase
I never leave reviews on anything, But this time I had too. To Hell and Back Again gives you an inside look of what it is Like at War in Combat and the Hardships of Coming Home. I served as a Grunt in the Iraq War and am 27 Years Old. Watching this Documentary was like Watching myself, All Over Again. PTSD and Substance abuse is a Serious Matter and this Video Shows how Real It Is.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Human Cost Of Our War Machine 24 Feb 2012
By Robert Blake - Published on
"Hell And Back Again" is the real, bitter truth behind the glossy Marines commercials, the pompous imperial rhetoric of politicians and it serves as a counterweight to our culture of video game-minded ignorance about war and violence. With a brilliant narrative technique, director Dangfung Dennis follows the trials at home and on the field of Sgt. Nathan Harris, who is seriously wounded in Afghanistan and must adjust to a life of recovery and pain, added to his new struggle is the leftover bloodlust of a senseless conflict.

The film tells two parallel stories of the same man. Dennis intercuts between Harris's time in Afghanistan and his recovery period at home as he deals with medications, finding an appropriate house and realizing his days as a grunt are over. His wife Ashley stands by him the whole way, even enduring the ghosts of war stirring inside him. These are powerful moments in their simplicity, the whole Spartan image teenagers are fed on the TV ads and through neo-propaganda films like the recent "Act Of Valor" is stripped down to the bare reality: The average soldier is a working-class citizen, not a comic book character. Nathan Harris is the perfect embodiment of the modern American male in his mid-20s: Nice but a bit ignorant, we notice he has few interests aside from guns and video games, and as he explains, when he was a teenager he "just wanted to kill people." In that one sentence we see clearly what we're producing as a society: A mindless, aimless generation easily picked up by the war machine and sent to fight in a land they know nothing about. The scenes involving Harris dealing with his injury are harrowing and drive home the reality of being hit by a bullet, without having to say too much the film makes the point that the human body is fragile and when it is shattered the experience is life-altering.

Some of the documentary's most memorable moments take place in Afghanistan where we see Harris as a serious, focused Marine leading his men. But it's interesting to see such dedication in a combat zone where it's hard to see the point of waging the war itself. The classic scenarios in any foreign occupation are here as soldiers, including Harris, try to reason with an ancient people they know nothing about, trying in vain to justify their reasons for being in the country. There are moments where Afghan elders make it clear that they don't like either the Taliban or the US, but they also make it clear that it is the US military presence causing the most damage. We see Marines using vague rhetoric about bringing freedom from oppresson, but the Afghans simply want to live their lives and tend their land. It feels like you're watching Marines march through an alien world where they have no business meddling. It's another country with a compeletly different culture, who are we to tell them how they should live? This sort of question naturally presents itself as you see resources and men wasted on a futile mission.

"Hell And Back Again" is filmed with great skill, the cinematography adds a cinematic scope to a very down to earth story. The editing is impressive in the way it links Harris's experiences at home and in Afghanistan, using sometimes great sound transitions to create an almost dreamlike effect. But in the end this film's real merit is in its powerful story and the way it serves as a document of one man's experience, but also as a document of where we are now as a people and country. Like Oliver Stone's "Born On The Fourth Of July" this is a film that uses the shattering of a man's physical being to say deeper, wider things about war and the misguided use of violence as idealism. "Hell And Back Again" is memorable and explores themes which will remain relevant as long as nations venture into unknown lands, creating more victims of history.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Illuminating 22 Mar 2012
By "Rocky Raccoon" - Published on
Format:Blu-ray|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
It used to be that the camera was considered the enemy of war. The Tet Offense was shown on the network news and has often been cited as the dealbreaker for The Vietnam War. Now it all depends where and how you aim and shoot, but with a video camera and some skillful editing, you can make some intimate and informative war films. Of course today's support for the soldier has increased, but point-of-view has become essential in how one perceives any modern campaign.

Such is the case for 'Hell and Back Again,' an honest portrait of gung-ho soldier Sergeant Nathan Harris, and a film which criss-crosses between serving the end of his third duty in Afghanistan and his homeridden rehabilitation from a wound he received just days before his last duty ended. At first we see him as an able commander, barking at and leading his troops through some harrowing campaigns as we see their counter insurgency increase the pressure on the Taliban.

At home Ashley, his wife, is supportive, and many of his fellow North Carolina residents receive him warmly. Rehabilitation takes its toll in the Harris home as we see VA meetings, rehabilitation sessions, trips to Wal-Mart, stops for multiple prescriptions, and home scenes generously provided. As we close in on the battles that led to his injury, the fallout of PTSD becomes more apparent. Even the rucuperating soldier admits that he prefers the rigors of Afghanistan over the little hassles that stress him out so keenly on the homefront. A bullet hit him in the hip, rickocheted through his right leg, and left him unable to walk and in great pain. In Afghanistan we seem him as a brave commander and the best of sometimes a bad lot at persuading Afghanistan citizens. (It becomes clear that soldiers increasingly have become diplomats, not an easy task as Afghanis sometimes view both the Taliban and United States as mutual enemies.) When we close in on the time of his war wounds, both parts of his story seem whole and complete.

'Hell and Back Again' is an unflinching look at a soldier's life both on and off the battlefield. It is a step up from the admirable 'The War Tapes' with Iraqi veterans, Zack Bazzi and Steve Pink, because it is tighter, shows more explicitly the dangers at the front, and more tangibly illustrates the consequences of their sacrifices. (It just amazes me how determined Sgt. Nathan Harris is to be rehabilitated, so he can serve on a fourth tour--probably no better able to do more than limp the rest of his life.) As a worthy recent Oscar nominee, 'Hell and Back Again' is an illuminating film and shouldn't be ignored.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hell and Back Again 13 Feb 2012
By JMM - Published on
Format:Blu-ray|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This film was recently nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, so I had high hopes for it. I was not disappointed. The film primarily follows one soldier, and it cuts between his time in Afghanistan and his return home after he sustains an injury in combat. Remarkably, even after his injury, this young man indicates that if possible he would love to return to the field and fight for his country again.

This documentary shows both the reality of war and the reality of a soldier's post-war life. There are some clever editing and sound techniques used by the filmmakers to suggest what the young man is thinking at various points during the documentary, and these moments are very effective. I would say that the film does not take sides politically, but that it presents an accurate depiction of war and allows the viewers to come to their conclusions - but the strong violence and disturbing imagery within the film obviously would lead most people to draw the conclusion that war should only be a last resort and should be avoided if at all possible.

As someone who is not very familiar with the military, I think it is important to see these types of documentaries from time to time. It reminds us of the sacrifice that our troops make in the name of freedom. It also gives us a more in-depth look at the situation, and goes far beyond what the traditional news media reports. Watching the soldiers interact with the local people was one of the most fascinating aspects of the documentary. These men face the difficult challenge of communicating with a population which does not speak English, and in most cases the locals do not want soldiers in their village.

I would recommend that you rent it first - for most, one viewing will be enough. But you should definitely watch this film, it is a great experience. If you do buy this blu-ray set, you also get a standard DVD of the film included as well.
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