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Movie review: Active-duty soldiers speak movingly about war and trauma in 'No Greater Love'

By: Alan Zilberman The Washington Post
November 14, 2017 Updated: November 14, 2017 at 4:15 am
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A military funeral is shown in the war documentary "No Greater Love," filmed by an Army chaplain stationed in Afghanistan. MUST CREDIT: Atlas Distribution Company

Directed Justin Roberts; 97 minutes; unrated, contains graphic war violence and strong language.

Filmed by an active-duty Army chaplain stationed in Afghanistan, and focusing on soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division's "No Slack" battalion, the documentary "No Greater Love" is a remarkable film about war and its effect on soldiers.

As a chaplain, director Justin D. Roberts did not carry a weapon, instead using a camera to gain unparalleled access - to intense combat stories and to open a discussion of the resulting psychological trauma.

Interspersing war footage with interviews with soldiers and their families, Roberts takes his time to put combat operations in context, with officers describing the tactical nightmare of fighting in a mountain range with limited visibility and few escape routes. Most of the film focuses on two missions with heavy casualties. As soldiers recall each excruciating detail, they get emotional on camera.

Most war documentaries are made by civilians, which can make the storytelling stilted as soldiers pause to explain military jargon. Because the interview subjects in "No Greater Love" speak without interruption, their recollections are all the more natural and vivid.

Despite his access, Roberts is not a natural documentarian. Interviews often cut to him listening, which interrupts the flow of the stories. Still, "No Greater Love" gives us insight into why a soldier might choose to deploy again after recuperating from a traumatic brain injury.

It shouldn't be revolutionary to let ordinary soldiers share their experiences in their words, but somehow it is. "No Greater Love" gets at the camaraderie - and the contradictions - of military service in a way that few films have.

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