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High Ground: Film Review

High Ground Michael Brown Documentary Still - H 2012
Serac Adventure Films

The Bottom Line

Doc offers new ways for viewers to empathize with wounded veterans.

Opens

Friday, Nov. 2

Director-Director of photography

Michael Brown

Michael Brown's doc a group of wounded Iraq and Afghanistan vets who embark on a mountaineering trek.

Finding a fresh way to discuss issues that have received a fair bit of (much needed) media attention in recent years, Michael Brown's High Ground focuses on a group of wounded Iraq and Afghanistan vets who find solidarity on a mountaineering expedition to Nepal. Sensitive to its occasionally fragile subjects and presenting a non-partisan lament for the human costs of these wars, the doc may have limited big-screen appeal but should find admirers on TV and in niche bookings.

Some members of the expedition have lost a leg, others their eyesight, but Brown does a fine job demonstrating that these outwardly apparent injuries are hardly less challenging than invisible ones: both physical trauma to the brain, which has robbed some of these vets of the ability to form reliable memories, and emotional scars that leave others barely recognizable to their friends.

The film tells the story viewers are likely expecting -- showing how a blind man can navigate treacherous terrain, watching a soldier prove that his prosthetic leg can handle a cliff face just fine -- but it frequently veers from the inspirational-achievement-doc format. It offers a good deal of war footage to illustrate the stories interviewees tell -- tales of how injuries occurred, and how living with round-the-clock high stakes left some feeling they'd already "lived up" their lives by the time they got home.

Some of these trekkers are more resilient than others, but all seem to agree there's a high, maybe insurmountable barrier between them and civilians. However sympathetic we are, they say, we can hardly understand what they've been through. High Ground makes that difficult task a little easier.

Production Companies: Stone Circle Pictures, Serac Adventure Films
Director-Director of photography: Michael Brown
Screenwriters: Michael Brown, Scott McElroy, Brian Mockenhaupt, Ryan Fenson-Hood, Matthew L. Murray
Producers: Don Hahn, Michael Brown
Music: Chris Bacon
Editor: Scott McElroy
No rating, 91 minutes.