Combustible Celluloid
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With: Carlos Boettcher, Mike Boettcher
Written by: n/a
Directed by: David Salzberg, Christian Tureaud
MPAA Rating: R for language throughout
Running Time: 93
Date: 06/06/2014

The Hornet's Nest (2014)

3 Stars (out of 4)

They Were Soldiers

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Mike Boettcher has been a war correspondent for decades, most frequently embedded in Iraq and Afghanistan. During this time, he has missed out on much of his home life, and missed seeing his son growing up. Heading off on his latest assignment, his grown son Carlos demands to come along, and Mike sees it as an opportunity to at last bond with him. But their destination includes some of the deadliest spots in Afghanistan, more or less right in the Taliban's own backyard. In this documentary, both men witness death and courage like they have never seen before, and both discover something new about themselves.

With The Hornet's Nest, documentary filmmakers David Salzberg and Christian Tureaud take raw footage shot by father Mike Boettcher and son Carlos Boettcher, combine it with newer, sit-down interviews, and turn it into something quite powerful and emotional. The Boettcher footage feels extremely close to actual combat, with bullets nearly hitting the lens. (Carlos learns that a bullet, zooming by at close range, sounds like a buzzing bee.)

Though the movie contains figures about numbers of people killed in this war, and the fact that it's now the longest war in U.S. history, it's more focused on the emotional side. Soldiers are interviewed about how they felt about a certain rescue or casualty. Mike suddenly feels a father's protective urge when his son goes out alone to film. But perhaps most powerful, after the conclusion of a dangerous mission with heavy losses, a commanding officer unaware of being on camera, breaks down and cries at the loss of so many young men.

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