Lone Survivor Movie Review

Based on the true story of the failed 2005 mission “Operation Red Wings”, LONE SURVIVOR follows the four SEAL members who were ambushed by Taliban soldiers in the Afghan mountains.  As the team is hiding out in brush waiting for their next  step to capture or kill Taliban leader Ahmad Shahd, three goat herders march a flock right through their pathway.  Hiding behind enemy lines, Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg), Michael Murphy (Taylor Kitsch), Matt ‘Axe’ Axelson (Ben Foster), and Danny Dietz (Emile Hirch) are faced with a situation that sets in motion a deadly and frightening fight for their lives.

Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Ben Foster, Emile Hirsch in Lone Survivor

To be honest, I was not looking forward to LONE SURVIVOR strictly due to director Peter Berg, who has directed a sillier fashion of movies such as BATTLESHIP, HANCOCK and THE RUNDOWN. That kind of style usually doesn’t translate to reality-based war films.  I will fully admit he proved me wrong… sort of.

LONE SURVIVOR is a powerfully emotional film about the brotherhood of a SEAL Team.  But director Peter Berg over-complicates his story with a couple of glorified Hollywood shots and a highly questionable plot point that sets forth the entire action, hindering the already impressive film from being one of the year’s best.

Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Ben Foster, Emile Hirsch in Lone Survivor

Preparing the audience for the almost super-human abilities these men courageously reveal, LONE SURVIVOR wisely opens with real SEALs in training; demonstrating a small glimpse of the endurance and dedication these men possess.

The battle is unrelenting and brutal.  The emotional toll set forth as we see the American soldiers do all they can to survive is absolutely exhausting.  Jumping off cliffs, choosing the beaten path of rocks and gravity destroying their body over being captured is inspiring.  With every slam and roll, I couldn’t help wincing at the inflicted pain.  The terrific cinematography and graphic visuals provide a realism that is rarely seen in war films; I couldn’t help but be impacted by the courage these men displayed.

Ben Foster in Lone Survivor

If only that sort of realism was maintained throughout the picture.  Most of the time the characters and their mission provided an authenticity that had me fully immersed. However, Bergs inability to edit himself, prevented the highly effective film from reaching its full potential.

For as great as the film is, Berg continued to get in his own way by over-dramatizing certain scenes with slow-motion and grand musical cues, completely pulling the viewer out of the moment.  This technique lessened the impact as the characters were no longer real people but actors in a Hollywood movie, thus creating a major disconnect.  Thankfully, the opposite happens through most the picture as seen in another death scene where Berg leaves the camera on an individual with the quietness of the mountain as bullets whiz by finally landing on their mark.  The image is sad and honest as death recognizes no grand closure.

Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Ben Foster, Emile Hirsch in Lone Survivor

With plenty of extremely powerful moments, LONE SURVIVOR is easily one of the more highly recommended films of the year.  But the fact that it was so close to true greatness, makes the sting far more noticable.  Just be in the mindset to overlook some irritating “movie moments”  and I think one will truly be inspired and encouraged by our SEAL teams and those segments of the world who wear a code of honor.


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