'Citizen Soldier': Film Review

Courtesy of Strong Eagle Media
Compelling you-are-there film has been scooped by other docs.
8/5/2016

Follow a crew of Army National Guardsmen through a tour of duty in Afghanistan.

Relying on hours and hours of helmet-cam footage to capture a first-person account of one combat team's time in Afghanistan, Citizen Soldier emphasizes the part played in current wars by National Guard members who in regular life hold down varied non-military jobs. Coming many years after other attention-getting docs with similar missions, the film will have a hard time attracting attention outside the community of veterans. But that doesn't diminish its ability to put us in the shoes of ordinary men balancing boredom with life-or-death action on a daily basis.

Focused mostly on a handful of soldiers in the Oklahoma Army National Guard's 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, David Salzberg and Christian Tureaud's film bounces constantly between 2011 field footage and interviews held well after the participants' return home. The effect is largely familiar as the movie introduces its subjects (its focus is too broad to bring many of them to life as characters). But midway through, our experience of action is more extensive than in some other films: Where other good war docs have done more of the storytelling retrospectively, the directors here bounce around in-the-moment POV angles to keep us in the action.

Most extensive is a long, late sequence in which, when one of their number is killed and falls down a mountain, several others must make a grueling and dangerous attempt to retrieve his body while under fire. Mike Trella's score, appropriately Heartlandsy in other places, takes a brief turn into generic action-movie mode, cheapening the drama a bit. But in the moment and in the comfort of civilian life, the participants make sure we never fail to take it seriously.

 

Production company: Strong Eagle Media

Distributor: Gravitas Ventures

Directors: David Salzberg, Christian Tureaud

Screenwriter: Eli Baldrige

Producers: David Salzberg, Christian Tureaud, Bert Bedrosian, Eran Harrill

Executive producers: Charlie Anderson, Mike Camello, David L. Thompson, John Brenkus, Jason Mergott, Frank Sinton, Wendy R. Anderson, Mike Boettcher, Carlos Boettcher, B. Kevin Turner

Editor: Jason Mergott

Composer: Mike Trella

R, 104 minutes

 

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