War is “boredom punctuated by moments of terror,” as the old adage goes. Boredom, however, has never made for a good film, which has led to a cinematic century of war presented as an exciting, if horrifying endeavor. And while some films (“Full Metal Jacket” and “Platoon“) edged ever closer to the ghastly reality, and others (“Jarhead“) captured the tedium, none seem to embody the stark duality as “Combat Obscura” so fully.
The new documentary opens with a list of disclaimers, chiefly that the film — which was shot by director Miles Lagoze and a few others while in Afghanistan in 2011 when Lagoze was a videographer for a Marine battalion — is not endorsed by the Department of Defense. “We filmed what they wanted, but then we kept shooting,” a title card reads. It can be assumed that what “they” wanted was propaganda: Marines as ambassadors, handing out chocolate, meeting with tribal leaders, and generally bringing peace to a wartorn country. And Marines as super soldiers using the best technology in the world to fight terrorism.