- RatedM18 /GenreDrama, War
‘Lone Survivor’ is based on the book of the same name written by Marcus Luttrell, a true account of a Navy SEAL mission in Afghanistan gone horribly wrong.
As you can probably tell by the title, Marcus Luttrell survived that mission.
On 28 June 2008, SEAL Team 10 was assigned to take out Taliban leader Ahmad Shah in Operation Red Wings. A four-man reconnaissance and surveillance team was sent to do the job.
The team, consisting of Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg), Michael P “Murph” Murphy (Taylor Kitsch), Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch) and Matthew "Axe" Axelson (Ben Foster), are going through what seems to be a routine covert mission when they are discovered by three goat herders.
The compromise leads to a discussion within the group whether to kill the herders or not for the sake of their own survival. Despite noticing some signs that the herders may be supporters of the Taliban, Murph decides to adhere to the rules of engagement in war and lets the innocents go.
The squad tries to retreat and call off the mission, but with communications down and the Taliban quickly bearing down on them, they are soon drawn into a conflict where they are vastly outnumbered.
Director Peter Berg, in his first film project since the disappointing ‘Battleship’ in 2012, has crafted a movie that is direct in its intentions but still effective and skilful all the same.
The movie opens with real-life footage and photos of the men we are about to meet in the movie. Then, we encounter them in ordinary situations around camp: missing loved ones, dreaming about the next present they are going to buy, or simply driving each other on. The audience is invited into the lives of an exclusive elite brotherhood.
The movie chugs along steadily, until that moment when they encounter the goat herders. In that moment alone, Berg turns the movie completely on its head. In that short instance, he manages to showcase the horrible decisions that men have to bear while in war.
These decisions of morality are made in an environment that is almost completely devoid of morals and where your enemy will probably not do you that same favour. That vital moment shows the tough choice between giving up the bond of brotherhood and the honour of doing the right thing.
COMPARISONS WITH ‘BLACK HAWK DOWN’
The movie then rolls on full steam ahead with one sole purpose: to bludgeon you with an assault of brutal, nonstop danger and violence as the four SEALs face off against what may be deemed as an entire army of Taliban men. Not since ‘Black Hawk Down’ has a military battle been depicted as this harrowing and relentless as it has in ‘Lone Survivor’.
The assault even gets sort of numbing but it works, as it serves to illustrate just how impossible the odds are. Berg doesn't attempt to sugar-coat anything, his crew's handheld camera work gets right in the thick of the action and the injuries shown will make you wince bigtime.
Even if you know what eventually become of the men from reading the book, Berg’s deft camerawork maintains a sense of danger and unpredictability on every side of the frame, keeping the audience on edge for much of the entire movie.
GOOD ACTING, GREAT TECHNICAL WORK
It is truly some first-class technical work on display, resulting in visceral and exciting war action.
The four primary actors are also convincing not just in physique but but conveying a soldier’s uneasy body language when under duress.
Berg and his crew strived for a rather high level of military detail here and it is quite a visual feast for military nuts out there.
Where the movie falters though, is when the steady characterisation of the men is tossed aside and the film is tempted to indulge in glorifying them as heroic patriots instead.
Thankfully, everything else in the movie is executed so well that this niggling bit is easily glossed over.
‘Lone Survivor’ is a very well-made war film. It is a fiercely personal and intense portrait of the sheer fortitude of men, the unique relationships among soldiers, and the moral complexity that takes place during war.