Monday, April 24, 2017

Danger Close: Alex Quade Tells the Special Forces’ Stories

If you were embarking on a dangerous mission, you would much prefer to have embedded journalist Alex Quade with you than a lot of our so-called allies. You could count on her to keep her head and make the right decisions during times of crisis. For her, the U.S. Special Forces soldiers are not just a subject to file and forget. They are the people she shared foxholes with. Quade does their stories justice in Christian Tureaud & David Salzberg’s documentary, Danger Close (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Danger Close is the third film in Tureaud & Salzberg’s trilogy (so far), documenting both the day-to-day and extreme warfighting conditions experienced by American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, following The Hornet’s Nest and Citizen Soldier. Quade is highly simpatico with their approach. She never takes positions on the missions themselves, but she feels a duty to truthfully report the dangers and challenges the U.S. Special Forces and conventional military personnel face.

This is particularly true in the case of the late Green Beret Staff Sgt. Rob Pirelli. The chief engineer of his detachment, Pirelli built their combat outpost almost single-handedly from scratch. In appreciation of his labor, the men of ODA-072 christened it Combat Outpost Pirelli. After Pirelli was killed in action, his family took great pride in the honor Pirelli’s comrades bestowed on him. The Combat Outpost Pirelli insignia emblazoned on its fortified walls became particularly meaningful to them, so they asked Quade to verify that Camp Pirelli wall still stands proud. Obviously, an embed cannot just race off to a remote corner of the embattled Diyala province on her own accord. Yet, Quade slowly but tenaciously started working her way across the country to uphold her promise.

Clearly, Quade formed a bond with Pirelli’s family, but her personal mission ran deeper than that. In the opening minutes of DC, we see the Chinook helicopter Quade very nearly boarded get blown out of the sky by a shoulder-launched projectile. The concern the Special Forces rank-and-file show for her well-being, despite the fact she is merely a journalist, is decidedly not lost on her.

Taken together, Tureaud & Salzberg’s three films form an extraordinary record of the boots-on-the-ground combat experience. The marketer inside us would recommend a special gift edition box set for the holidays. Each one has moments of white knuckle tension and emotionally devastating sequences that bring home the human cost of war in no uncertain terms.

This time around, Tureaud & Salzberg had the advantage of all the amazing footage Quade shot, often when she was under fire. You can easily see why the military personnel she covered believed she had earned her spurs. Yet, she also handles the Pirelli family with the respect and sensitivity they are due.

It is important to point out Quade has extensive credits packaging and producing for CNN, because a certain cynical segment of the population (those who automatically equate patriotism with “jingoism”) will want to dismiss her as a Fox News plant or some such fantastical beast. The truth is Quade has put her life on the line reporting from the frontlines—and she has the videotape to prove it. She has already received the Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s award for journalistic excellence, but Danger Close ought to bring Quade much wider recognition. Very highly recommended for mainstream, popular audiences nationwide, Danger Close opens this Friday (4/28) in New York, at the Cinema Village.