Ben Anderson is a journalist that covers Afghanistan for the London Times. His footage and writing are behind a documentary film known as The Battle For Marjah, which features raw footage of a particular Marine squad that is leading the ground assault for taking the city of Marjah from Taliban control in early 2010. This film aired on HBO and is arriving on Blu-ray from Athena on September 6th.
The Battle for Marjah's greatest strength as a film is just how raw the footage is. It's high quality footage, don't get me wrong -- but it's raw and it gives a pretty amazing feeling of being right there with the Marines. Most of the documentary is filming right along side with the troops. Other parts are one on one interviews, and lesser still are segments taken from various news events happening around the time of the Marjah scenario, including snippets from TV news and radio shows. These different sources are weaved together nicely to form a coherent and very engaging film.
This is a much different perspective on the war than you will see on your local news station, and for that alone the film deserves significant credit. The sense of immersion and connection to the troops was palpable; I had not seen their struggle and their sacrifice in this way before, and it makes you only more appreciative of what they are doing. This film is loaded with questions that you will ask yourself or others with you after having seen it. It's meant to educate and create dialogue, and it does so every effectively. Questions like 'is this war something we really need to be involved in?' 'is the new strategy that the Marjah operation used going to be effective, and sustainable?' Clearly, there are passionate feelings on both sides of the fence whenever anything related to war and US involvement in foreign matters comes up. This film does not attempt to answer any of these questions for you, but it gets you thinking by laying out the facts, both in film and with a handy booklet.
As for presentation quality, The Battle For Marjah is superb; the technical image and sound quality is visceral. The HD images are a big reason why this film pulls you in from the first minutes until the very end. It's worth pointing out that the image is in 16:9, 1080i, and so on most screens it will be in full screen, no letterboxes.
The extra features are pretty basic on the disc and include a timeline graphic called America's Longest War, which starts with 9/11 and goes to the purported troop exit time of 2014. Two still image biographies are also included, one for Ben Anderson and the other for Goran Tomasevic. The best extra feature is not on the disc at all, but in the case -- it's a twelve page booklet with short articles on the history of Afghanistan, the Taliban, and the USMC, amongst other topics.
Overall, The Battle For Marjah on Blu-ray is an impressive film. It's a jaw-dropping experience, but one that I don't see myself watching very often. As such, it may not warrant a full purchase, but makes for a great rental at the very least.