Documentary Review: HBO’s ‘The Last Patrol’

After the death of a peer, two career soldiers, a war photographer, and journalist/documentarian Sebastian Junger undertake a journey by foot from Washington D.C. to Pennsylvania, as a means of honoring their fallen compatriot and to undertake a serious discussion of what it means to adjust to life outside of combat.

‘The Last Patrol’ is a documentary based on a basic and poignant notion that quickly turns into little more than a love letter to war. That war is a shaping influence on the lives of many people goes without question, and how those people adjust to life outside of the fighting is a relevant and interesting topic for Junger to investigate. It is unfortunate that his investigation quickly turns into a soapbox for him to espouse the controversial and outdated belief that war fulfills some sort of evolutionary and biological need in the human developmental process. Today this belief exists primarily as an argument made by policy makers for the necessity and benefits of using military force. It has been denounced, or at least severely modified, by almost all scholars in the hard sciences.

It is somewhat offensive to the returning veterans that have real difficulty acclimating to being home and/or have some sort of psychological disorder brought on by their time fighting to say that this is only because they miss the excitement of war. Junger clearly has an obsessive love of war, and there are numerous quotes throughout the film that hint at how far this goes (at one point his metaphors reach the level of comparing the relationship of men fighting wars as stronger and deeper than marriage). While he may very well feel this way it is unfortunate that he is attempting to project this infatuation with war onto soldiers everywhere.

‘The Last Patrol’ is an overlong documentary that purports good intentions only to proselytize a flawed theory of war. War is not a developmental stepping-stone to be cherished and romanticized. It is a brutal, destructive, and life-altering affair, and there are many better documentaries that illustrate how war changes its participants.

Airs tonight (November 10) on HBO.

One Response
  1. November 23, 2014

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