Wildly jerky and almost nauseating hand-held camera shots hit the viewer in the early minutes of the film, producing a gut-tensing feeling of running in the middle of a firefight in Afghanistan. Father-and-son filmmakers Mike and Carlos Boettcher captured the helplessness and peril of combat simply by leaving their cameras on record as they dashed for cover from Taliban snipers or hit the ground on a signal from soldiers or Marines.
Coming out the other side of all that combat is “The Hornet’s Nest,” a film that documents the Boettchers’ 2010 and 2011 embeds during the tensely fought years of the Obama surge in Afghanistan.
Despite all the action, the film finds its greatest strengths in its faithfulness to capture the quieter moments of emotion that come with warfighting. The film, released Sept. 9, is named for a costly nine-day battle waged by “No Slack” battalion — Company C, 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team of the Army’s 101st Airborne Division — in Kunar province. But while that fight dominates the second half of the film, the project as a whole is more like a series of vignettes showing daily life for a small handful of Army and Marine units, including Golf company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.