Mike Boettcher has been a war correspondent most of his career. He left college at the University of Oklahoma just short of his actual degree and started working as a journalist before helping launch CNN as their first actual hire. Since then, he has covered terrorist bombings and has been on the front line of the wars in the Middle East since the Gulf War. Along the way, he admittedly neglected his family, missing birthdays, holidays, school events and more.
When his son Carlos was an adult, he moved into his father’s profession as a journalist and then he had a request that made his dad both proud and frightened. Carlos wanted to go with his father to Afghanistan and learn what his father thought was so important that he chose it over his family for so many years. What he learned was that his father’s job all those years was that important, as his father documented history for future generations to see.
That story takes up the first half of the new documentary movie The Hornet’s Nest, where father and son head to Afghanistan and document the battle in the trenches with soldiers fighting to make the world a better place.
I have never liked war movies. I always felt they were almost completely based in politics one way or the other. However, when I sat down to watch The Hornet’s Nest, I didn’t see any politics at all. I saw men fighting in the trenches to protect each other and to save the lives of the innocent citizens trapped in these war zones. I also saw men who would be dead before the movie ended. Honestly, the scene at the end when the commanding officer drops to his knees after the memorials and openly cries over the loss of his men was one of the toughest things I have watched in a movie.
This was not Saving Private Ryan. This was real life and that made it all the more effective. These were soldiers that were in their early 20s, men with babies at home that they hoped to see again, men that died and their kids will never get to know their fathers as they grow up. This movie is heartbreaking, but it is also so important because it was made for one reason. Americans need to understand that, even if they are against the war, the men over there are humans, doing what they believe is the right thing. We can protest wars, but we should never turn our back on the soldiers.
The first half of The Hornet’s Nest is mostly about the father-son story of Mike and Carlos. We watch as they get to know the soldiers and we actually hear the bullets as they whiz by the cameras that these men hold. There is a point in the movie where the two men are separated. Carlos is with a group of soldiers pinned down for over 20 days, while his father fears for his son’s life the entire time. There are times where Mike turns the camera towards himself because he feels his life is about to end and he wants to document his final moments.
Both father and son made it home alive, and both men agree that putting their lives in danger to document this time in history is worth it to future generations. What they show is men fighting to protect each other. They show medics saving a child’s life after a suicide bomber killed many innocent citizens. They show some of the world’s true heroes.
The second half of the movie sees Carlos return home while Mike stays with the troops, and he ends up trapped in a very dangerous situation. They enter what is known as a Hornet’s Nest, because their enemy knows it so well and there is death from every direction. The soldier’s mission here is to flush out a terrorist who is wanted for many deaths. They succeed with minimal loss of civilian lives. However, they do lose a number of soldiers, men that Mike called friends, in order to complete their mission.
As I said, I hate war movies generally. However, The Hornet’s Nest is not so much a war movie as it is a tale of heroes, friends and compatriots, fighting side-by-side to make the world a better place. It is real and it is frightening, and it is more tense than almost any movie drama anyone could ever write.