'Lone Survivor' Review: A Good Movie About Great Men

true detective /hannibal / dc movies / snl / mindhole blowers / netflix / celebrity facts / marvel

'Lone Survivor' Review: A Good Movie About Great Men

By Dustin Rowles | Film Reviews | January 10, 2014 | Comments ()


Mark Wahlberg plays Marcus Luttrell, the only SEAL Team 10 member who survived the real-life Operation Red Wings mission in Afghanistan. You know he’s the only survivor because it’s in the title, and because it’s made abundantly clear in the opening scene of Peter Berg’s film. There is no suspense regarding the fate of the three men who went on the mission along with Lutrell to take out a Talibani warlord, Michael Murphy (Taylor Kitsch), Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch), and Axe Axelson (Ben Foster). The characters, like their real-life counterparts, die, and they die in a brutal fashion.

In many films, where you know the fate of the characters going in, that sense of suspense is often replaced with a sense of doom, but Peter Berg infuses Lone Survivor instead with a sense of appreciation for the men we know gave up their lives under harrowing circumstances not for the good of the country, and not for any overriding political purpose, but for each other. It’s one of those films where you get so caught up in the reality of what’s being depicted that it’s difficult to separate out the merits of the filmmaking. I mean, look: Taylor Kitsch is in this, and Peter Berg doesn’t go easy on the Explosions in the Sky, so it’s hard not to think to yourself the entire time, “Oh God, Riggins is gonna die.”

That it’s difficult to separate the film from the reality it is depicting, however, is a testament to how effective Berg is here, and with the gunfight scenes in particular, which make up a good hour plus of the two-hour film. They are well crafted and intense, though obviously heightened for dramatic effect (the sound effects editing should get special recognition, if only because it’s a movie where you notice the sound effects editing). It’s during those scenes between the four SEAL Team 10 members and the Taliban fighters that Lone Survivor works best, combining the realistic chaos of battle, the sense of camaraderie between the four men struggling to both survive and take as many men out as they can before they perish, and also a real sense of loss for these men, whose fate was sealed the minute they set free two Talibani children and an old man instead of killing them, knowing that they’d run back to the warlords and rat out the SEALs’ location. It is gripping, unsparing, and unbelievably bruising, and all four of the lead actors do exemplary jobs of making us feel something for the characters in between the bullets and busted bones.

But like a lot of war films, there’s also a jingoistic flavor to it, as Berg seeks to glorify and celebrate these men. To his credit, Berg comes by it honestly. Both Berg and Wahlberg have expressed a lot of admiration and respect for Luttrell’s efforts, and sought, best they could, to recreate the action from Lutrell’s memoir. Berg’s passion for the project, and for the efforts of these service men, is apparent in every second of film. Ultimately, it almost feels as though Berg may have sacrificed a few dramatic opportunities (especially near the end) for the sake of realism, and the result is an experience where you leave the theater not thinking, “Wow, that was an amazing movie,” but instead thinking, “Wow, those were amazing men.” You may not feel a lot of pride for some of the military war efforts of our government, but it’s impossible not to feel a sense of pride for these courageous men, and leave with a heavy heart, thankful for their efforts, and heartbroken for the families who had to give them up.

Your Favorite TV Show Needs to End | Um, Here's A Preview Of The Preview For Next Season's 'Game Of Thrones'

Are you following Pajiba on Facebook or Twitter? Every time you do, Bill Murray crashes a wedding.

Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Repo

    I thought this was terrific. I am a veteran as well and loved the book when I read it a few years back so I had high hopes for this.

    The portrayal of combat was very good and even though I knew what happened I found myself very caught up in the intensity and emotion of the movie. It felt very authentic and the artistic flourishes taken to relay key moments in the battle were well chosen and executed, in no small part I imagine from having Marcus Luttrell on set. He's been making the press rounds with Wahlberg and Berg and it's clear there is immense respect for the source material.

    Well done and a great film for my first theater experience of the year.

  • God Of Bal-Sagoth

    Sounds a lot like Act Of Valor, but with actors. Also, I like this: the result is an experience where you leave the theater not thinking, “Wow, that was an amazing movie,” but instead thinking, “Wow, those were amazing men.”

    That line struck me. It's a credit to Berg, really, whose mission it seemed was more fealty to the story and the real people involved than it was to make a conventional action movie. In some ways, that's to be commended.

  • The combat scene was incredibly shot and wonderfully edited. The layout and positioning of both the SEALs and the the Taliban fighters was always clear. No shaky cam, no rousing music (for the most part), just brutal action. I don't know how Berg filmed the scenes with the men tumbling down the mountain, but whoever figured that out deserves some sort of special achievement Oscar.

    Overall the movie was much better than I expected but unravelled a bit in the third act. Characterizing it as "cliched" isn't exactly fair as those events actually transpired, but the film's last 20 minutes was its weakest.

  • Jiffylush

    This. Much better that I thought it would be, The battles were very different than what I am used to seeing in a very good way. The tumbling was amazingly intense and I actually found myself wincing as it happened.

blog comments powered by Disqus