Lone Survivor (2013)
Director: Peter Berg
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster, Eric Bana
Plot: Marcus Luttrell and his team set out on a mission to capture or kill notorious Taliban leader Ahmad Shah, in late June 2005. Marcus and his team are left to fight for their lives in one of the most valiant efforts of modern warfare.
Genre: Action / Biography / War
Awards: Nom. for 2 Oscars - Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing
Rating: M18 for strong bloody war violence and pervasive language.
IN RETROSPECT (Spoilers: NO)
“Anything in life worth doing is worth overdoing. Moderation is for cowards.”
We haven’t had many memorable war movies in recent years. The last ones of some note were Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker (2008) and to some extent, Paul Greengrass’ Green Zone (2010). So Lone Survivor comes at an opportune time because after what seems like a stagnant period for the genre, the war movie comes back with a decent punch with this Peter Berg war-drama filled with requisite action, and surprisingly, some genuinely emotional moments.
Berg, who based his screenplay on the book by Marcus Luttrell and Patrick Robinson, is best known for Hancock (2008) and the commercial and critical failure Battleship (2012). But you have to go back to his 2007 film The Kingdom, which I personally think is underrated, to see how excellent and exciting Berg is as a director. And he shows that enthusiasm and command of craft in his latest work.
In some way Lone Survivor is a close cousin to The Kingdom. Both films are concerned about conflict in the Middle East, and the consequences of drawing the lines between friends and enemies. The Kingdom was gritty and primarily shot using handheld cameras, a stark contrast to Lone Survivor which takes on a more polished look with camerawork that is stable and clear, and cinematography that highlights the vastness of space.
That space is Afghanistan and this is a dramatic telling of a true story. The mission is Operation Red Wings with four US Navy SEALS tasked to capture a notorious Taliban leader. Things go unexpectedly (or expectedly, since this is war) wrong, and these brave soldiers have to attempt to survive an onslaught of attacks by the insurgents without the safety net of incoming air support.
This is a heroic tale; it is also an inspirational one. It is about the brotherhood of men at the darkest moments of their lives. It is also about unexpected kindness and solidarity. To its credit, Berg’s film works as a first-rate war film with solid, violent action. Its two Oscar nominations for Best Sound Mixing and Sound Editing are also deserving.
However, what elevates this to something quite emotionally impactful is its touching and humanistic third act, set in an Afghan village. Some may find Lone Survivor heavy-handed in its treatment of themes of patriotism and heroism. But remembering military heroes is never a bad thing, well at least it feels that way for Lone Survivor.
Verdict: This is more inspirational and touching than gritty and bleak, and it packs a decent punch.