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Armadillo [DVD]
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65 of 66 people found the following review helpful
on 25 May 2011
I served as a medic in a FOB less than three miles from what was then FOB Armadillo, under the command of a successor Danish battalion during the winter of 2010-11 and therefore awaited the British release of this documentary with great anticipation.

It did not disappoint.

The director gives a realistic portrayal of what it is like to be deployed in that part of the world - he does not draw out the drama, he does not labour the fighting, but instead, also shows the boredom and the burning desire for action that any soldier on his first tour can relate to. The documentary explores this theme in some depth and you see the Danish soldiers explain how they frankly yearn to be tested, they yearn for the excitement of combat and fear going home without having experienced it and the frustration of boring routine patrols. You also see the fear and the adrenaline during the fire fights and the rush and exultation back in the FOB at having survived it and won. This is how it was with my unit and these scenes struck a big chord. This balance runs, I think, through the documentary and you are allowed to make your own mind up about the people and events you see in it.

The cinematography is almost too good so that sometimes you feel like you are watching fiction but to my mind this is true to what I experienced out there, you experience things so extreme and so alien to our western lives that it honestly feels like you are in a bad film. Therefore, this blurring of the fiction and non-fiction line powerfully conveys that feeling: fact does mirror fiction and you do experience, see and hear things that you would wince to see in film script.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 7 December 2011
I could detail the goings on, the tears prior to departure to the jubilation on completion but I will leave that for the viewing. It would be alien to most and may well misrepresent the true nature of this film if I were to give my version of the story. Instead, I will tell you this, it is a first hand account filmed almost entirely by helmet cam, with such a superb soldiers perspective, rarely portrayed as clearly as this. An insight into how the tenacious Afghanis view these modern crusaders and the value of life and property to them. The resultant feelings mirrored by these fine Danish lads as they meet the day to day challenge of staying alive and hunting the Taliban. Eat, sleep, fight and praying together; there is no other film like this. You must see it just for the varied view and outlook and the fact that there are so few films made about this war. The only aspect missing is smell, and frankly I'm pleased about that. This is a Graphic first hand account of life on the front line in this decade long conflict, told in the Danish tongue with subtitles. I would rate this alongside Das Boot, 9th company and Stalingrad, a must see.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
******** CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS ********

"Armadillo" has quite rightly been described as visceral, and about as close to war as you are likely to get without actually being shot at. Even to the combatants it must all seem a bit surreal at times. I remember one soldier describing combat in that other hard hitting recent war documentary "This is War" as being "Like training but with real targets". Spookily enough the soldiers are showing playing 'shooter computer games' in "Armadillo". They of course soon find to their cost that real bullets are indeed being fired in their direction. It is a pity that this film has come out in the wake of Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington's "Restrepo" and the aforementioned "This is War", which with the help of modern filming techniques have taken the viewer closer than ever before to the real front line. In this case to within one kilometer of the Taliban positions in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Close enough for some all too real action! Perhaps because of these other good films it has been a little overlooked at this time.

In the film documentary filmmaker Janus Metz and his indefatigable cameraman Lars Skree follow a group of Danish soldiers from the news of their initial deployment in Denmark, to their front line duties based at Army Base Armadillo, Helmand Province, Afghanistan for 6 months in 2009. It is to be a long six months for the soldiers. For those with an aversion to subtitles, be warned that most of this film is in Danish. The film highlights so many of the problems that soldiers based in Afghanistan face. The Taliban often merge with the civilian population making target identification very difficult, and the risk of non combatant casualties high. They are also a determined and resourceful enemy as history has so often shown. There is the ever present risk of being blown to atoms by cannily placed IEDs. A civilian population that sensibly refuses to assist the soldiers, knowing what the Taliban reprisals for doing so will be. Boredom is also realistically shown along with the usual soldiers banter common to every nation. The film caused some controversy in Denmark when the soldiers are shown liquidating enemy Taliban who are foolishly caught trapped in a ditch. This highlights the soldiers dilemma when dealing with a dangerous enemy, and a wounded enemy can be highly dangerous. This is a place where taking prisoners can be a highly risky game of roulette.

In truth the film does not add much more than the other two recent war documentaries, although it does contain a couple of very powerful scenes. The memorable image of a wounded bulge eyed soldier, and the adrenaline pumped reaction of the men after their first bloody combat exchange. Those of a sensitive nature may wish to fast forward the sequence with the dead Taliban, which is particularly hard hitting. The films use of filters, super crisp sound, sharp editing and post production colour correction give it a great sense of this is all happening in the here and now. As I have already commented in a previous review, if this is the future of war films then I really begin to worry about what is to come. Where can we go from here? The film deservedly won a prize at the prestigious 2010 Cannes film festival. This is certainly a film that gives you much food for thought. Another film that truthfully tells us what we probably all knew long ago. War is indeed hell!
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 10 March 2011
I find it amazing that Restrepo has a wealth of people reviewing it yet very few seem to have watched this film.

For me the most impressive part was the fact that they didn't shy away from showing the true realities of war. When people got wounded or killed, they showed you in full detail. I really think it's important when making a war documentary not to sanitise events as in this way you gain a greater understanding of what the soldiers actually experience themselves.

There is also a very good narrative, from their time when they start serving to meeting relatives when they arrive home. You get to see some of the people the soldiers have been talking about so fondly.

Would highly recommend.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 20 September 2011
I bought this after watching Restrepo which i enjoyed but didnt think it lived up to all the hype, i was recommended Armadillo and saw it had great reviews. I thought it started off slow but thats part of war and when they get to armadillo and they adapt to there surroundings its not the fast paced action you normally get but its still very intriguing. Once they start going out on patrols and getting contacted the pace really starts to pick up and it was some of the best combat footage i have ever seen it was definitely a no holds bard view of the things they face especially when they come to the end of their tour and start to take the fight to the taliban. It also shows you how they have to deal with the consequences of taking life as people from their own country and sometimes family dont understand the situations they find themselves in.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 2 January 2012
I had not heard of this documentary until it was shown on Channel 4. Although there are a number of documentaries about Afganistan, it was refreshing to see it from the perspective of another NATO country in the shape of the Danish Army. Excellent filming showing the lives and conditions facing the Danish soldiers in Afganistan and their lives at home, coupled with some gruesome sights coming from a brutal conflict with an honest view from Danish soldiers serving out there. I would recommend to people have an interest in getting another countries' soldiers perspective of the war outside of the American or British soldiers' view laudable as they are, and to see the impact on their lives in a country not normally seen being involved in this type of operation. It is a conflict where lives are lost both with Afganistan civilians and NATO troops leading to a withdrawl in 2014. This adds another viewpoint, and it would be interesting to see the Danish public's view on the conflict.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 9 March 2012
Anything real coming out of Afghan, not Hollywood stuff, is worth watching. I had real trouble with the subtitles, white lettering on a white background is ridiculous. This should be watched by anybody interested in current Afghan situation, particularly innocent young squaddies going for the first time, but in my opinion the best so far is still Restrepo.Restrepo [DVD]
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 28 November 2013
Pedersen's documentary following Danish soldiers deployed in Afghanistan is a standard setter.

I previously watched Restrepo (2010) and while it is very worthy, to me it somehow suffers when compared to Armadillo in that Pedersen managed to get that bit deeper under the skin. Armadillo is less about the "situation" and more about the individuals' experience, be it enjoyable or unpleasant.

Engagements with the Taliban are sudden and fierce, but there are longer periods of soldiers video-gaming (war), watching porn and chatting about everything and nothing. Someone told me that when they think of war, their touchstone is Platoon (1986). I could not have disagreed more. THIS is a bold attempt at relaying and understanding conflict, and is mercifully free from oversimplification, cliched dialogue, cool soundtracks and stereotypes.

Of course, as with all documentaries (& films), editing is key, so that civilian viewers can never get a truly whole and authentic experience of conflict, but Pedersen's strength is his ability to dispel or dilute the myriad of (Hollywood) "myths" of (modern) conflict from Dr. Strangelove (1964) to Black Hawk Down (2001).
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 18 July 2011
A dark, uneasy and realistic war film that is a documentary but actually could pass as a tense drama.

Following Danish soldiers in Afghanistan the subject, look and going ons are gritty, raw and awe inspiringly tense. In a tough film to watch, the soldiers toughen up and adjust to the survival needs of their situation. The film is objective and flow nicely allowing the viewer to make up their mind about the harsh realities on show here in modern warfare situations.

A great watch for anyone interested, much better than Restrepo or other such war films and a great cult find of the year for 2011.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 8 September 2011
The Anglo-American military involvement in Afghanistan has now dragged on for ten years, and sadly a lot of British and American soldiers have been killed, and that's not to mention the Afghans who have had it worse for longer. I bought and watched the documentaries Restrepo and Armadillo out of respect for the documentary makers who risked their lives to make these films, and to see what I could learn about this intractable conflict from watching them...

Restrepo is a truly brilliant documentary. The first thing to say about it is that it was made in co-operation with National Geographic, and was therefore politically constrained from the start. That's why there is no overt or explicit critique of US policy in the film, and little context-setting. Instead, the film makers rather cunningly went for realism, which becomes it's own critique. One scene after another makes you realise the total futility of trying to control and dominate a place like the Korengal Valley militarily. This documentary is really stunning, and could not get more real. The opening sequence, where the vehicle the cameraman is driving in hits an IED, is as shocking as anything else, perhaps the most shocking sequence. But there's plenty more action--the American soldiers come under fire almost every day, and when things are quiet they go out looking for a fight. The reviewer SCM rightly comments on the naivete of the American captain who attempts, but fails, to win the hearts and minds of the locals, who are after all the Taliban, or Taliban supporters. The brilliance of this documentary lay in the de-briefing interviews. In one of these interviews a soldier reflects on the bungled attempt to curry favour with the locals, "...hearts and minds was not working--we're loud, we're obnoxious, we're immature at times; going in and acting like their friend doesn't work." That was a glimmer of self-awareness coming through, after the event. Another soldier remarked, in response to the cliche that you did what you had to do, "I didn't have to do any of it." This awakening comes too late, one feels. There is so much more to say about this documentary, but I'll confine myself to the observation that it was superbly edited (by Michael Levine) and artfully filmed (by the late, great, Tim Hetherington) with beautiful sweeping shots, and many telling close-ups.

Watching Armadillo, which in its own way is a superb documentary, made an interesting counterpoint to Restrepo. This film is equally artful to Restrepo, but a more orthodox effort: the film makers take the traditional approach of following a group of soldiers from training to deployment. The documentary is beautifully shot borrowing classic cinematic technique and narrative. Some reviewers have commented that Armadillo is more real than Restrepo, somehow more engaged. I agree that the film makers get close to their subject--the Danish soldiers, who by turns come across as macho and spartan, and then not much more than schoolboy porno enthusiasts. The main subject followed is a young man who seems to be out to prove himself, which he finally does by getting wounded, much to everyone's admiration. The whole thing is such a joke, and that young man is headed for a lot of nightmares. But I digress. Back to the action: the Danes go out on a "domination patrol" (no irony!). The vanguard patrol move like a herd of elephants--the cameraman has lots of time to film civilians fleeing in advance of a firefight. On go the Danes, one of them falling over after losing his balance. Finally, bang, bang, bang. They bag some enemy. But the enemy hit back a couple of days later--"they're everywhere", comments one of the Danish soldiers, referring to the Taliban. And indeed they are--they're all over this documentary. In both Restrepo and Armadillo we get to see the western soldiers talking to civilians, some of whom no doubt later pick up weapons to take a pop at the occupiers. Of course, you have to be sensitive to pick up on this, but it was as plain as day to me--and its exactly why the western armies will never win in Afghanistan: they don't know the enemy; the enemy, however, knows them all too well.

Both these documentaries are involved, engaging, and brilliantly filmed. I can't recommend one over the other--I recommend you watch them both.
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