From the opening footage spanning decades of combat action, it is apparent no audience will be spared the pain experienced by the subjects of Lexy Lovell and Michael Uys's documentary: this disturbing, deeply affecting look at war through the eyes of American veterans provides extraordinary perspective for civilian viewers. Five men who fought variously in World War II, Vietnam, and the Middle East talk about combat in a down-to-earth, matter-of-fact way that gives horrifying new meaning to the term "brutal realities." These are not masters of atrocity - they are good men who went to war to serve their country. There, they were taught to kill - it was their job; only later, sometimes much later, did it come back to haunt them, filling them with anger and regret.
Which is not to say the veterans speak with one voice; from the tightly uniformed, professional soldier to the Marine who does penance by carrying a sign in public confessing to acts of murder in Iraq, their outlooks and coping methods vary. But each man brings his own authentic insight to the story, helping to create a tableau that is as hard to turn away from as it is to watch. Surprisingly free of self-pity and blame, they soldier on in the path of awareness - just as the film itself eschews melodrama as a matter of respect for the searing honesty of its subjects.