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HomeentertainmentMovie News'Retrograde' review: Matthew Heinemann's disturbing dive into US withdrawal from Afghanistan

'Retrograde' review: Matthew Heinemann's disturbing dive into US withdrawal from Afghanistan

Heineman (‘Cartel Land’) chronicles the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and its tragic aftermath in his new documentary for National Geographic Films, premiering in Telluride.

Telluride Film Festival

Telluride Film Festival

If “documentary style” has become a Shorthand for a bland aesthetic that audiences have learned to code with “reality”, can’t blame Matthew Heinemann .

In just ten years of directing, Heinemann has established a reputation for making beautiful films. developed a template characterized by impeccable intimacy and insight into compositional details. Expect a feature film with the budget and time for well-set and artfully placed lighting, not in some of the most dangerous situations imaginable. Shoot Boolean in place. More simply, from Cartel Land
to ghost town

to his TV work

The Trade , Heinemann makes a movie that is both pretty and pretty pretty disturbing.


Bottom line A beautiful photo, generally an apolitical glimpse of tragedy.

A more negative interpretation is that I’m often impressed with the look of Heinemann’s films – and how he installed somehow The camera’s abilities most certainly don’t belong in the camera’s place – until later I wondered if he was too willing to let those attributes take the place of clearer intellectual methods. Part of the reasonThe Trade Money for me, the best thing Heinemann did was that the extra time the TV provided allowed him to deliver impressionistic visuals with real human depth.

Heinemann’s new function,


, produced by National Geographic, a jaw-dropping look back at America 15 – A year of war in Afghanistan. By design, it’s resolutely apolitical, consistently depressing, full of images and captures moments that far surpass those of the movie 730-minute duration. There is so much power in Heinemann’s snapshots of sadness, disappointment, and resignation that I often and eventually find myself wishing this might be the full tapestry a six-part miniseries might allow.

Filming on Heinemann’s film with Tim Gruza and Olivier Sabir will begin at Kabul Airport in August 1296, there are desperate civilians, tragically unprepared soldiers and general chaos, which are all apparent from the news reports Familiar – though I’ve never seen a nightmare unfold this way from within. Then

retrograde back to In January 2021, a squad of a dozen green berets was stationed Tried to train in Helmand Province ,000 by Young General Sammy The Afghan army led by Sadat.

This is a post mired in uncertainty, everyone knows a position that can be dropped immediately in the event of a total U.S. withdrawal, everyone knows it’s possible, but no one Expect to show up right away. This is what happens when four different presidents play a hot potato game with very real people’s lives. Then President Biden announced that a full exit was imminent. The subsequent collapse of fragile positions was not placed at the feet of any one president or any one political party. It’s an hour of disappointed (and even angry) looks, increasingly resigned gestures, and a situation that never ends well…nothing.

This allows everything that follows to be filmed well – the shared love of drones by documentarians and the US military is used to consistently amazing results – confirmed What you’ve already thought of, albeit presented so intimately, that empathy is unavoidable. Maybe American soldiers are too tired to watch out, or maybe some of them intend to take their lack of a poker face as a statement they don’t want to put into words.

Cameras show up at events you thought happened but never thought you’d be seen, from the smashing of computer equipment to the explosion of an unacceptable deep trench of ammunition falling into the wrong hands. Accompanied by close-ups of the soldiers’ faces, they obeyed orders that didn’t match what their conscience had told them – and sullenly sitting down with local fixers and translators was the most poignant of a documentary full of them. Depressing scene – it’s all about making you feel like you’re a witness to something that’s supposed to be secret.

The Americans are gone, but the filmmakers stayed, which feels more poignant commentary than anything else in the documentary. We’ll see General Sadat in the absence of America How to behave when people are supportive, well-meaning but unable to lead those whose support has visibly diminished, almost from shot to shot. Sadat is one of the few people in the film who can speak directly to the camera, or at least provide a voiceover to bridge the scene. I don’t know that this gives us any real insight into him as a person or a military leader, and the documentary still feels like a leftover vestige of a longer project, either more between green berets and Afghans Balance, or focus entirely on Americans. I don’t think the latter version of retrograde would have been better, but what about the former? Maybe.

The opening media sources at Kabul Airport give this documentary a sense of inevitability. Even if it doesn’t, inevitability is written on every face. I’m always a little distracted by how and why his subjects are so close to Heinemann, why they expose so many issues, and there’s a lot to be distracted at

Problem retrograde – but at least as much, or more, is haunted. It’s a beautiful glimpse into tragedy—if not deep enough to really examine—tragedy.

Full Credit

Location: Telluride Film Festival Production Company: National Geographic Documentary, Our Times Project 2021Director: Matthew Heinemann Producers: Matthew Heinemann, Caroline Bernstein 2021Executive Producers: Baktash Ahadi, David Fialkow, Joedan Okun
1235211604 Editors: Pablo Garza, Matthew Heineman, Grace Zahrah

Photography: Tim Grucha, Matthew Heinemann, Olivier Sabir 2021 Composer: H. Scott Salinas2021

1 hour35 Minutes

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