Last men in Aleppo is a brutal, emotionally overwhelming true story of the last humanitarian fighters in Aleppo who risk their lives in a failing society. We follow Khaled (Umar Harah) who is a part of The Syrian Civil Defence also known as The White Helmets – a volunteer organisation that operates in parts of rebel-controlled Syria and fights the merciless bombing of civilians. Witnessing the first devastating rescue after the bomb you instantly feel powerless and are completely drawn into the film, as the White Helmets continue searching for additional victims – dead or alive. Emotions run high when two boys are rescued, unfortunately among them is a baby, who drew her last breath under the ruins. The terrifying circumstances of the people of Aleppo are almost unbearable to watch – dead children, bodies that were blown to pieces, as parents scream to god. The inhuman reality of Aleppo’s citizens unfolds in real-time as you witness the aftermath.
The breath of the audiences is effortlessly stolen by the sound of the cameraman breathing heavily into the camera during a missile attack on The White Helmets in a deserted field. The raw footage in itself is an amazing accomplishment of the production team. Their bravery and ability to capture the events required that they face imminent danger head on and risk their lives in order to expose a situation that is terrible to face. Their ability to capture the real events transports the audience into the frightening reality that Khaled and The White Helmets face every second of everyday.
Given the dangerous and unpredictable circumstances which are captured on a hand-held camera, the cinematography is quite extraordinary. Beautifully framed images almost make the ruins of Aleppo appear poetic as an upsetting reminder of the devastating reality facing the people of Aleppo. The moving cinematic music accompanies every scene enhancing the emotional impact.
Living in a constant fear of bombings, Khaled faces internal torment and questions whether to leave Aleppo with his wife and children or stay to help those who cannot escape. News reports only complicate matters and force Khaled to change his decision to leave on a daily basis. The salvation he pictured is broken by reports of the people of Aleppo who continue to suffer as they attempt to pass the borders into Europe.The unfortunate fate of Khaled, who sacrifices his life to rescue his family, and others, only stresses the unpredictable and irrational circumstances of this documentary. The unpredictable nature of fighting in Syria forced the documentary creators to capture what they could with no possible insight to how the story would end.
Last Men in Aleppo is an unforgettable portrait of Syrian civilians caught in a heartless war. The visual style and story of director Feras Fayyad is remarkable, and tells the story of great injustice. The use of colorgrading makes dropping bombs look like fireworks as fires burn lighting up ruins of Aleppo. It is the use of their techniques that gives the film it’s artistically stunning look. The beautiful execution of imagery integrated in horrifying real life footage ensures that you will never forget watching Last Men in Aleppo. More so than a political statement, the documentary shows a personal and terrifying insight of the work of The White Helmets convincing the viewer emotionally with its breath-taking audio-visuals and compassionate treatment of the issue. In other words, the film has an expressive importance that might appear as manipulative within a political context, but speaks to human emotions of families of the western world.