‘Lone Survivor’ review

Posted: January 3, 2014 in Movies, Reviews

A film based off of a true story involving U.S. Navy SEALS being ambushed and brutally attacked is usually a recipe for disaster if your movie isn’t named Black Hawk Down.  However, Peter Berg’s Lone Survivor, which depicts the actual events of “Operation Red Wings”, takes a grisly formula and mostly delivers with it.  Operation Red Wings dealt with four U.S. Navy SEAL team members stranded on an Afghanistan mountain with no radio amidst hundreds of Taliban soldiers.  Ultimately, like the film’s title suggests, there was only one survivor – but everything that happened over the course of the operation was disaster upon disaster.  To this day it’s one of the most deadly operations the United States military as faced since being in Afghanistan.

The film stars Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch Emile Hirsch, and Ben Foster as the four Navy SEAL team members during the operation.  While Wahlber is the ultimate star of the film, it’s Foster and Hirsch that steal the show as they get lost in their roles.  In my humble opinion, Ben Foster is one of Hollywood’s best actors but for whatever reason he’s never gotten his due and has pretty much faded into becoming at best, a supporting actor.  Hirsch is in the same boat, a great actor that was once seen as Hollywood’s next big thing – only to fade into oblivion.  While all that may be true, Peter Berg resurrects both of their careers with these performances.  Kitsch is a Berg alum, as he starred in Berg’s first big budget feature film Battleship, and he’s pretty much going through the motions here but all the actors display a wide array of emotions when the bullets start flying.

Lone Survivor is a different military survival film as we’ve never really seen a movie explore the aspect of U.S. military personnel fighting for their lives on a mountain and the perils they face.  For instance, there are several scenes throughout the film where the four SEAL members have to jump off a cliff of rocks only to land on more rocks.  It’s completely brutal and some scenes are very cringe worthy.  However, the grisly images are never distasteful and you never get the sense that Berg is just punishing these characters.  A friend of mine compared the film to Tears of the Sun (2003) starring Bruce Willis in another true U.S. military operation gone awry, but the outcome isn’t the same, and with Tears of the Sun you never got Willis’ full acting range.  With Lone Survivor you get the sense that these actors are being genuine in their portrayal.

The story shifts once Wahlberg is the last remaining SEAL alive and he’s rescued by an Afghanistan farmer and taken to his village.  The story becomes that of good vs. evil, instead of merely survival.  While the movie essentially becomes two different sub-genres, it’s told rather well and the actors who play the Afghanistan villagers do so rather well.  By the time the movie ends you never get the sense that the story was all for nothing.  Sure, there are some questionable dialogue choices towards the end and there isn’t really a main villain (as opposed to the main villain being the Taliban), but the journey is more about survival and taking a leap of faith rather than defeating any one single man.

Lone Survivor isn’t going to be remembered as any great war film but it will have its place in your Mark Wahlberg collection.

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