'Danger Close': Film Review

Courtesy of Alex Quade Films
The harrowing combat footage has by now become sadly familiar.
4/28/2017

Christian Tureaud and David Salzberg's third documentary in their military-themed trilogy revolves around embedded war reporter Alex Quade.

That the war in the Middle East has gone on for a depressingly long time becomes evident upon viewing Christian Tureaud and David Salzberg’s third entry in their military-themed documentary trilogy. Revolving around intrepid war reporter Alex Quade and her involvement with the family of a soldier killed in Iraq, Danger Close provides a vivid portrait of combat and its emotional and physical aftermath. But despite its harrowing footage and moving elements, the film may feel all too familiar to viewers who have become numb in the face of seemingly countless other similar efforts.

In the film, Quade, an award-winning freelance journalist who has accompanied military units on numerous missions, is shown embedded with U.S. Special Forces soldiers on a 2007 mission in Afghanistan. The excursion is captured in various formats — including cellphone video, aerial footage, night-vision photography — that convey the chaos of battle with fierce immediacy, if not always clarity. The garbled audio frequently necessitates the use of subtitles.

When Quade is injured during the course of a subsequent mission, she’s forced to return to the U.S. for her recovery. She takes the opportunity to seek out the family of Rob Pirelli, a staff sergeant and engineer with whom she had become friendly and who had been killed by sniper fire. She informs Pirelli’s relatives of his instrumental role in constructing a combat outpost in a remote region in Iraq that his comrades named in his honor. The film’s latter section concerns her efforts to venture to the outpost upon her return to Iraq to fulfill her promise to his family that she would send them back images.

Few viewers will fail to be moved by the segment devoted to the grieving family, including the father who subsequently died and who was buried close to his son. Pirelli’s younger sister is shown tending to her brother’s grave and, following a tradition started by her father, sharing morning coffee with him by cutting a hole in the cup that allows its contents to seep into the ground. The young soldier had become a hero to his small-town community who named a hockey rink in his honor.

But for all its powerful moments, Danger Close, which follows the directors’ previous efforts The Hornet’s Nest (2014) and Citizen Soldier (2016), proves frustratingly diffuse. Despite numerous interview segments featuring Quade, we never learn enough about her as we’d like, such as, for instance, for whom exactly she’s reporting. The film also reveals little about the soldiers with whom she’s embedded who obviously take great pains to protect her. Danger Close certainly gets close to the danger, but other than the one heroic soldier on which it concentrates, it doesn’t get satisfyingly close enough to anything else.  

Production companies: Strong Eagle Media Productions, Charlie Mike Productions, Base Productions
Distributors: Gravitas Ventures, Broad Green Pictures
Directors: Christian Tureaud, David Salzberg
Screenwriters: Eli Baldrige, Alex Quade
Producers: Bert Bedrosian, Christian Tureaud, David Salzberg, Alex Quade
Executive producers: Charlie Anderson, Mike Camello, David L. Thompson, Arthur Smith, Frank Sinton, Jason Mergott, Wendy R. Anderson, Mike Boettcher, Carlow Boettcher
Director of photography: Alex Quade
Editor: Jason Mergott
Composer: Mike Trella

90 minutes

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