Title: Lone Survivor
Released: December 25th, 2013
Director: Peter Berg
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, Emile Hirsch, Taylor Kitsch
Originally, I was planning to give a throwback review to Michael Mann’s stellar action-drama from 1995, Heat. However, this past Sunday, I went to the movies with two friends and saw Lone Survivor. I like war movies because of the depiction of its effects on man’s duality. Personally, Oliver Stone’s Platoon reigns supreme as far as these type of movies go. But Peter Berg’s depiction of a failed operation in an ongoing war is just as affective.
Based on the best-selling non-fiction book of the same name, Wahlberg portrays Marcus Luttrell (the titular survivor), a U.S. Navy SEAL. Both he and a small group of fellow officers (Ben Foster, Emile Hirsch, Taylor Kitsch) are charged with a mission to survey an Afghanistan village to capture or kill a high-ranking Taliban member (this mission was known as Operation Red Wings). During the mission, they capture a teenage boy and an elderly man and contemplate if they should hold them, kill them or let them go. Doing the latter is the catalyst for an outmatched gun battle that comprises most of the film.
Four US Navy SEALS against an army of Taliban soldiers is not a fair match, but fun to watch. Luttrell and his men take bullet after bullet and continue the seemingly unwinnable fight. There’s a scene where Foster’s character takes a shot to the back of the head, comes to a humorous realization of the fact but still presses on until Luttrell is the only one left. Then men plunge themselves down hills and cliffs as a means of retreat and left me wondering how they didn’t break any bones (those impacts looked awfully hard). It all comes to a head when a physically and emotionally drained Luttrell is taken in for care at an Afghan village who, by custom, defend there guests against enemies, even the Taliban.
My Verdict: Peter Berg is more known for Friday Night Lights, but this film shows his versatility as a director. The violence was very realistic without coming off as cartoonish or contrived which tells me he has a clear understanding of the source material. Wahlberg’s portrayal of a soldier with post-traumatic stress didn’t seem hammy even in the slightest. It’s a harrowing depiction of an ongoing war that grabbed my attention in the beginning with footage of brutal SEALs training and later a montage of the real-life soldiers of this operation with a slower melancholy version of David Bowie’s “Heroes” serving as the backdrop. If you see this while it’s still in the theaters, expect to see some viewers in tears and giving picture-perfect salutes by the end of the film. However, you’re an action film lover who gets off on a rush of visual testosterone, then this is for you.
Action-A-Go-Go? Drama notwithstanding, yes indeed.