Metascore
81

Universal acclaim - based on 17 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 17 out of 17
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 17
  3. Negative: 0 out of 17
  1. Reviewed by: Eric Kohn
    Feb 13, 2012
    91
    Possibly the best war movie of the year.
  2. Reviewed by: Duane Byrge
    Feb 13, 2012
    90
    Danfung Dennis presents a powerful depiction of the horrors and daily violence of our ongoing war in Afghanistan.
  3. Reviewed by: Robert Koehler
    Feb 13, 2012
    90
    Similar in its battlefield passages to last year's Danish-made "Armadillo," Dennis' film scores a layered perspective that follows Marine Sgt. Nathan Harris into combat and back home.
  4. Reviewed by: Roger Ebert
    Feb 22, 2012
    88
    In its closing scenes, Hell and Back Again builds to an emotional and stylistic power that we didn't see coming.
  5. Reviewed by: Tirdad Derakhshani
    Feb 13, 2012
    88
    A superb, violent, jarring and daring documentary.
  6. Reviewed by: Wesley Morris
    Feb 13, 2012
    88
    Dennis's film attempts something few documentaries have: to inhabit the psyche of its subject.
  7. Reviewed by: Ben Sachs
    Feb 23, 2012
    80
    This structure persuasively depicts combat and recovery as two sides of the same struggle, and Dennis strengthens his argument by maintaining a constant perspective throughout: the camera is always within a few feet of the subject.
  8. Reviewed by: Elizabeth Weitzman
    Feb 13, 2012
    80
    As vital as the best war chronicles to come out in recent years, this is one every American ought to see.
  9. Reviewed by: David Parkinson
    Feb 13, 2012
    80
    A tough but deeply rewarding watch. Search it out.
  10. Reviewed by: Keith Uhlich
    Feb 13, 2012
    80
    Watching the formerly spry Harris struggle to maintain a normal life (he's frequently glassy-eyed and jacked on painkillers) emphasizes the underappreciated sacrifices our men and women in uniform make in the name of vaguely defined ideals.
  11. Reviewed by: Michelle Orange
    Feb 13, 2012
    80
    Working alone with a camera and his ingenuity, Dennis captured the surreality of firefights with an invisible enemy and the frustration of displaced civilians.
  12. Reviewed by: Neil Genzlinger
    Feb 13, 2012
    80
    You can feel just how jarring and stressful it must be for a soldier to go from the life-and-death adrenaline rush of war to the maddeningly slow world of rehabilitation and forced inactivity.
  13. Reviewed by: V.A. Musetto
    Feb 13, 2012
    75
    Dennis refuses to push a political agenda down viewers' throats. But the message of his film -- a breathlessly paced look at the realities of war -- is clear: War and its aftermath are indeed hell.
  14. Reviewed by: Walter Addiego
    Feb 13, 2012
    75
    The documentary Hell and Back Again may be the closest most civilians ever get to the reality of the war in Afghanistan.
  15. Reviewed by: Michael O'Sullivan
    Feb 13, 2012
    75
    The film suggests that it doesn't really matter whether Harris ever gets back in uniform. He's forever carrying around a piece of unexploded ordnance in his head.
  16. Reviewed by: Alison Willmore
    Feb 13, 2012
    75
    The film portrays the dizzying divide between war and recovery eloquently enough that those choices seem like intrusions instead of connections, a misstep in what's otherwise a devastating profile of a soldier.
  17. Reviewed by: Lauren Wissot
    Feb 13, 2012
    63
    Unlike most war documentaries, which tend to only skim the surface of its gun-toting subjects' lives, photojournalist Danfung Dennis's Hell and Back Again isn't content to merely capture warriors in combat.
User Score
6.7

Generally favorable reviews- based on 7 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 3 out of 4
  2. Negative: 0 out of 4
  1. Jwv
    Jan 9, 2014
    9
    This review contains spoilers, click full review link to view. The documentary starts off with a thought provoking contrast. We land in the middle of a deadly Afghan war scene, only to see the marines' family reunion in America shortly after. This contrast suggests the frightful incompatibility of these scenes, and hints at the question of how the marines cope with this.

    During the story of Nathan back home, our point of view shifts from time to time to the Afghan war scene. These suggest the flashbacks that Nathan experiences.

    Ironic scenes from Nathan playing Call of Duty confront the viewer with the barbarity it is of reducing war to an enjoyable video game.

    The strongest moment in the film features one of Obama's speeches touching on the Afghan war. The film suggests the ridiculousness, emptiness and idiocy of Obama's idealized speeches about war, and subtly subverts it when a wounded and indifferent Nathan comments: "Well, Afgan people aren't watching." This film suggests that even physically unharmed marines come home profoundly wounded, be it emotional. Nathan's neurotic and unpredictable behaviour makes us question what injury cuts deeper, the physical or the emotional.
    Full Review »
  2. Mar 1, 2012
    9
    Its good. It mixes the war with real life without either overcoming the other. Whilst it is a documentary it does not dictate the story to you but it flows from the screen providing you with the questions. Full Review »
  3. Feb 11, 2012
    9
    Another year, another war documentary. This time, filmmaker Danfung Dennis turns the eye of his camera on Nathan Harris, a Sergeant in the U.S. Army, who leads his 2nd platoon further into insurgent strongholds in hopes of turning the tide of war in Afghanistan. The opening of the film features a firefight between U.S. forces and insurgents in the area where Lance Corporal Charles Sharp is killed in action, bringing the violence home for many viewers.

    The film then announces, via title cards, that Sergeant Nathan Harris is severely wounded in combat, and he has returned home with a fractured pelvis and severely broken leg from a bullet that tore through his right side. This part of the film focuses on Harrisâ
    Full Review »