The Hornet's Nest, an assembly by directors David Salzberg and Christian Tureaud of video shot by Mike and Carlos Boettcher, shows us soldiers under fire and losing comrades. The father-and-son war correspondents were embedded with U.S Army and Marine elements in Afghanistan in 2011. You watch shaky helmet-cam footage and hear bullets whistling by. While the material captured is extraordinary, it's too often presented in prosaic reality-TV style: A generic suspense-film score makes already tense scenes -- as when soldiers try to determine whether an assembly of pipes and wires is simply a jury-rigged source of electricity for a rural home or an improvised explosive device -- feel less grave than they really are. It's a disservice to the Boettchers' remarkable reporting.
Mike explains in voiceover that his lifelong devotion to filing from war zones had left him estranged from his family, so when his grown son demanded to accompany him to Afghanistan, he saw it is his last chance to rescue their relationship. (The two shared a 2012 Emmy award for their reporting.) The film climaxes with a nine-day effort to rout insurgent leader Qari Ziaur Rahman from his home in the Ganjgal Valley. It claims the lives of several servicemen, who are venerated with photographs and candid expressions of grief by their commanding officers. In the age of an all-volunteer military, the overwhelming majority of Americans don't even have to remember that the longest war in U.S. history is in its 13th year. Hawk or dove, that makes The Hornet's Nest an important film despite some baffling presentational choices.