Calling “The Hornet’s Nest” a documentary isn’t quite right. “Reality film” would probably be more accurate.
It certainly offers unprecedented access to what it feels like to be in a war. Veteran journalist Mike Boettcher goes deep into Afghanistan shoulder-to-shoulder with troops on the front lines.
The film is at once intense, heart-pounding and visceral. It’s also heart-wrenching to see what these men and women go through and what their ultimate sacrifices are.
The film starts out with Boettcher talking about how long he’s covered wars for TV news. He readily admits that it cost him time with his family, and his son, Carlos.
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When Mike plans to head to Afghanistan again, Carlos insists on going with him, to see why his father chose this life over his family. Mike sees it as a way to reconnect.
Both men wear cameras on their helmets. And that footage, mixed with their hand-held footage, makes the viewing unsettling but riveting. This is Carlos’ first experience as a war correspondent, and he soon realizes how dangerous – and real – this all is. So do we.
Carlos ultimately learns the importance of why they are there. Sure, to document the war, but really it’s to document first-hand what the soldiers go through.
Eventually, Carlos must return home, albeit with a great new respect for his father and the soldiers risking their lives. But Mike carries on.
From there, we follow Mike on several missions, ultimately leading to a charge against Taliban headquarters. The platoon gets trapped under heavy fire. Several lives are lost.
The film ends in a touching, heartbreaking tribute to these men.
Overall, “The Hornet’s Nest” is breathtaking, mostly because it’s so, well, real. It’s sometimes hard to figure out exactly what’s going on or exactly what the mission is, but it’s still engrossing, and even sometimes upsetting.
Mike gives commentary along the way that at times nears unneeded sensationalism. We can see for ourselves how harrowing this all is. We also don’t need him to tell us how touching it is to see the fallen soldiers’ tributes.
That is what’s most moving, though. These men and women are husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, friends.
While they may be fighting for a cause, mostly they’re fighting for one another – to keep one another alive in the gravest of circumstances.
It’s a bond most of us will never experience.