It’s been said Lone Survivor is the best war film since Saving Private Ryan by some. After seeing it, I’d have to agree with that statement. Countless others have come out throughout the years. Black Hawk Down had previously held this title with a few trialing close behind. Negative backlash has been thrown around by a good amount of people claiming propaganda. Honestly, I didn’t get that feeling while watching, and think that it’s an overall misinterpretation of the message the movie wanted to get across. If anything, it has the makeup of an anti-war movie. You have these incredibly gifted soldiers, but everything that can go wrong on the mission does. Many lives are also lost for the pursuit of not that much. Sure a couple of heroic moments are present, but in no way is it glamorizing war. Peter Berg achieved a good balance. He conveyed deep appreciation, but leaves you walking away thinking as well.
Lone Survivor is based on a true story. In 2005, a team of four Navy SEALs are sent on a mission – “Operation Red Wings.” Their objective is to take out or capture a high-ranking Taliban leader, who is somewhere in an Afghanistan mountain range. The SEALs are Lieutenant Micheal P. Murphy (Taylor Kitsch), Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg), Matthew Axelson (Ben Foster), and Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch). They locate the target and settle in waiting until nightfall to act. Three goat herders accidentally discover them compromising the mission. They are faced with a massive dilemma, and all communications are down. Eventually it is decided to let them go. Unfortunately, before they can reach safety, the alerted Taliban find them and attack.
I have never been a fan of Peter Berg as a writer and wasn’t expecting much – he surprised me (especially the conversation/argument when the guys have to decide what to do with the goat herders, fantastic dialog) . A big theme in most army related movies is brotherhood; how these guys fight for the people beside them. It doesn’t always come across that way, however, and it can derail things. I cared greatly for our central characters here. We get a few basic details from their personal life that are needed to help flesh the group out. Instead of opting for exploring back stories in heavy detail, Berg manages to show who these guys are through their actions and interactions. I fully bought the brotherhood between them. When the deaths actually happen, they hit you. Dramatic deaths have to be earned to have an impact. Never did I feel I was being forced into an emotion.
The acting is remarkable across the board. It really anchors the movie. Even though that complement is meant for the entire cast, there are of course four stand-outs (the Navy SEALs team). I’ve always liked Emile Hirsch. Never thought he’s given a bad performance, and that doesn’t change with this. We saw a lot of Taylor Kitsch back in 2012. I had mixed feelings on him, could be a serviceable B-movie action star for sure. The jury is still out on whether Kitsch can be a great leading man, but come to find he works extremely well in a more supporting role playing off other actors. It’s present in Lone Survivor and Savages. Never got too much “wow” material, and managed to get me invested anyway.
There are numerous underrated actors I could list. Ben Foster is defiantly one of them. He’s the kind of actor that embodies his roles and is believable in any role. It amazes me that Foster doesn’t get nearly as many quality roles as he should. Defiantly has what it takes to be a leading man carrying a movie. Mark Wahlberg is a true mixed bag. Sometimes you get his good side, and other times his bad. He has a tendency to fade into the background and get out shinned by the rest of the cast by. That doesn’t happen here, though. Wahlberg doesn’t completely rise up over everyone, but more than holds his own. The second half is where he especially gets to shine; easily delivers one of his finest performances. All of them worked well together on screen as well.
There is a main battle scene that begins in the middle that could rival any other in film history. It was THAT well done. The sound design was outstanding. Peter Berg directs the action masterfully, slowing down occasionally to ensure us as viewers feel the bullets hit, and hear the bones break. The violence is brutal, holding nothing back. Not overly violent however, or grotesque. No one can deny Lone Survivor is difficult to watch. It can get hard watching four likable people get battered and shot in the mountains of Afghanistan. Even more so since it actually happened. It’s an intense movie that pushes you deep in your seat. I am picky when giving out my highest rating. I was on the fence, but there was nothing I disliked. It had phenomenal a story, characters, action, cinematography, tension, and posed some questions. What more is there? Lone Survivor gets a full recommendation from me.