Universal acclaim - based on 17 Critics What's this?

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Generally favorable reviews- based on 7 Ratings

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  • Summary: In 2009, U.S. Marines launched a major helicopter assault on a Taliban stronghold in southern Afghanistan. Within hours of being dropped deep behind enemy lines, 25-year-old Sergeant Nathan Harris’s unit is attacked from all sides. Embedded in Echo Company during the assault, photojournalist and filmmaker Danfung Dennis captures the frontline action with visceral immediacy. When Sergeant Harris returns home to North Carolina after a life-threatening injury in battle, the film evolves from stunning war reportage to the story of one man’s personal apocalypse. With the love and support of his wife, Ashley, Harris struggles to overcome the difficulties of transitioning back to civilian life. The two realities seamlessly intertwine to communicate both the extraordinary drama of war and, for a generation of soldiers, the no-less-difficult experience of returning home. An unprecedented exploration of the moving image and a film of uncommon intimacy, Hell and Back Again comes full circle as it lays bare the true cost of war. (Docurama Films) Expand
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
    Possibly the best war movie of the year.
  2. Reviewed by: Robert Koehler
    Feb 13, 2012
    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.
  3. Reviewed by: Tirdad Derakhshani
    Feb 13, 2012
    A superb, violent, jarring and daring documentary.
  4. Reviewed by: Michelle Orange
    Feb 13, 2012
    Working alone with a camera and his ingenuity, Dennis captured the surreality of firefights with an invisible enemy and the frustration of displaced civilians.
  5. Reviewed by: David Parkinson
    Feb 13, 2012
    A tough but deeply rewarding watch. Search it out.
  6. Reviewed by: V.A. Musetto
    Feb 13, 2012
    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.
  7. Reviewed by: Lauren Wissot
    Feb 13, 2012
    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.

See all 17 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 3 out of 4
  2. Negative: 0 out of 4
  1. Feb 11, 2012
    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
  2. Mar 1, 2012
    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. Expand
  3. Jwv
    Jan 9, 2014
    This review contains spoilers, click expand 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.
  4. j30
    Feb 9, 2012
    After hearing about Hell and Back Again on NPR I was hoping for a poignant documentary about the horrors of coming back from war (The Hurt Locker, Jarhead, or Restrepo (I know the first two are Hollywood movies)), but the whole movie felt flat to me. Maybe the hero, Sergeant Nathan Harris, didn't let the viewers inside emotionally. Maybe it was that lake of a music score? I'm not quite sure, the film just didn't do it for me. Expand