I wonder how many people got out of this alive?
It’s the summer of 2005 in Afghanistan and four Navy SEALS (Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitch, Ben Foster, and Emile Hirsch) find themselves assigned a covert mission: Find the vicious Taliban leader known as Ahmad Shahd and kill him. All four of these soldiers feel like it’s going to be another walk in the park, but soon, things start to go wrong once they seem not to be able to get their radio to work. To make matters even worse, they stumble upon a few local goat herders, whom they hold in captivity in fear of not knowing what to do just yet. However, working with their better judgement, the four decide that they shouldn’t hold them any longer, nor kill them. So, they let them go and continue on with the mission. Problem is, once they let these bystanders go, one of them actually goes right back to the local Taliban and gives up their cover, meaning that it’s these four Navy SEALS, against this whole army. In other words, it’s a fight to the death in which the Americans, for once, are out-numbered and may continue to be if they can’t get their stinking radio working.
Peter Berg’s been known to be a big advocate for our soldiers, which is why a movie like this just plainly reads “total propaganda”. Even if the story itself is real, with all of the right details thrown in there and such, it still seems like another case of Peter Berg getting his hand on a military story, making it for the masses and showing the rest of our society the heroes that are out there, fighting on a day-to-day basis, so that we can continue to live our lives in perfect, total harmony. Trust me though, there’s nothing wrong with that as we should all definitely pay our respects and gratitude to these soldiers who risk their lives day in, and day out. But a movie that’s basically telling me I need to, is never something that sits well with me, which is exactly what I thought I was going to be subject to here with, yet again, another Peter Berg “military” movie.
However, I was very wrong. I’m glad to be though because now seeing it, I can say that this is as honest, and as heart-wrenching of a tribute to our fallen heroes, as we’ve gotten for quite some time. Especially with one that doesn’t hold any obvious political-agenda; it’s just signaling a tribute to those who deserve it the most.
What Berg does so well with this true tale is by the way that he doesn’t really pander to any view-point in particular. Whether the people who see this more are for the war, or aren’t, it doesn’t matter as Berg clearly shows us that this is less a story about the actual war, the brutal killings and all sorts of other controversies that surround it, but more about the human-beings who get wrapped up into this war, feeling as if they are doing something right for themselves, their families and most importantly, their country. And they definitely are, which makes it all the more heartbreaking to watch as each and every one of these guys continue to fight for their lives, find the best possible way to make it out alive and make sure that whomever it is that’s on their side, walks across the finish-line alongside them as well. It’s more of a testament to how these soldiers are like brothers in a way and care more for the person next to them, rather than themselves. I don’t usually like that “hurrah hurrah!” type of stuff in these war movies and quite frankly, I don’t really fall for it, but here, with Berg’s attention to emotion, it felt real and authentic, without many strings attached. There were some over-dramatic moments that were clearly tugging at the heart-strings, but never to the point of where it was unbearable.
But what really sets this movie over that edge of being more than just your traditional, war flick, is in the way it portrays our infamous sequence-of-violent/horrific-events. It’s less sentimental than one might suspect, and really will test some audience’s patience as it gets very up-in-your-face, and never seems to shy away from the harsh facts of the reality of this situation.
For instance, the whole sequence between the SEALS and the rest of this Taliban army starts off on the top of a mountain, and at first, Berg makes it seem like these soldiers are invincible heroes that yes, do get shot, but also suck it in and walk away from it all, only to continue on with the shooting, the strategizing and the running away. Eventually though, the soldiers do begin to get more and more shot at, which also means, they begin to take more bullets wherever they just so happen to connect. Some take it in the legs, the back, the shoulders, the stomach, the head, and all sorts of other parts of the body that I don’t even want to get into or describe.
Nonetheless, this is when the movie really starts to hit you, and hit you hard. This is also where Berg’s direction really starts to excel in the way that it paints a portrait of just how bad a situation can get, once one unfortunate mishap continues to happen, after another, and nothing seems to be working well for one side, but perfectly for the other. You begin to feel a palpable sense of danger, just about the same time as the soldiers do and it takes you for a thrill, more times than often. Especially once the battle itself starts to spill out all the way to the bottom of the mountain, and people begin to start falling all over themselves, and getting injured even more, in horrific and gruel detail.
Though some may see what Berg does here as “too realistic”, it’s never gratuitous as if he were making a horror film. For example, some people’s ears are shown falling off; blood is seen spraying every which way but loose; and even eyes get enclosed to practically making some people blind. But somehow, it never seems over-done. Instead, it seems like Berg really does want us to get an idea of what it is that these soldiers went through on that fateful day, without trying to manipulate us in any way. Simply, Berg just allows for the scenes to happen, with barely any directorial-trickery or manipulative score added anywhere.
It’s just four Navy SEALS fighting for their damn lives, and it’s a compelling watch, every single second its on-screen.
However, it should be noted that once the actual mountain-attack is over and done with, the movie does begin to get very conventional, and this is exactly where Berg begins to tug on the heartstrings. And usually, it would feel deserved, especially since we’ve already been through so much with these SEALS and seen them go through and, well, stay there, but it didn’t quite work as well as the first two-halves of the movie. Most of that simply has to do with the fact that barely any of these characters have much more to them than we see painted on a portrait for us in the first 30 minutes or so.
Despite this, the cast does very well with each and every one of their roles, despite never really getting any development beyond the bravery-side to their personality. Mark Wahlberg definitely does well with being macho and tough, but showing the capability of being smart as well; Taylor Kitsch is at least easier and less painful to watch here, then he’s been in his past three or four movies; Emile Hirsch brings a lot of his little-boyish charm that we’ve seen him bring to most of his movies, and it works wonders for his character here that himself seems a bit immature and a bit too out-of-his-reach; Eric Bana tries hard to hold-back on his Australian-accent, but does fine altogether as the one sergeant whose back at base, watching over all of the proceedings; and, if there is any stand-out to be found here, it’s Ben Foster as the one soldier who suffers through the most pain and agony out of them all, but never wusses-out or asks for mercy. He just keeps on trucking until he can’t truck on no more. Much like every other soldier did on that terrible, terrible day where lives were lost and families were hurt. But altogether, we stuck through it and will continue to do so until the end of time. ‘Murrica!
Consensus: Though it has all of the workings of a very obvious, ham-fisted war flick that’s trying to make its political stand-point known loud and clear for all to hear, Lone Survivor still sticks to the humanity of this real-life mission, in which many soldiers lost their lives and even though one came out alive to tell the story, the painful reality of fallen family members is still there and never going to go away.
8 / 10 = Matinee!!
Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, Collider, Joblo, ComingSoon.net
Great review, Dan.
This wasn’t really on my radar until I started reading the book just a few days ago. I’m about halfway through and the story is incredible. It’s truly amazing what our soldiers go through. Now, with your review, I’m really ready to go see this one and pay my respects to that team.
Yeah, they really did go through hell, only to eventually meet it when all was said and done. It’s a very sad flick, but ultimately, an honorable tribute to those who deserve it the most.
Inspiring write up… now I can’t wait to get my eyeballs around it.
I don’t blame you, because it’s a good one. Enjoy!
Sounds like a good film. Looking forward to seeing it.
I hope so. It’s a good one!
I’m really skeptical because not only does it seem a bit like propaganda, but Peter Berg also directed Battleship. But it looks interesting and I love Mark Wahlberg so I may give it a try.
Berg has had some misfires in the past, but he really keeps his head on tight with this. Trust me on that.
I have this screener, sitting in a pile of many, on my fireplace mantle. Hoping to check it out soon, and then I’ll try to remember to stop back and comment. Flooded with so many films at this time of year! ML
The first half was rah-rah let’s go kick some Taliban butt. The second half was slow motion bullets exploding through human heads. Lone Survivor exhibited all the restraint of Team America: World Police. I thought these poor soldiers deserved a better film.
Good review, Dan. I was also a little worried about the propaganda angle going in, but didn’t get that feeling at all after watching it. I thought the politics were pretty neutral and more about the sacrifice and horrors of the battle. Like you, I could have used a little more character details or development, but otherwise I thought it was a good war flick.
Good cover 🙂
[…] Lone Survivor (2013) […]
While there definitely seemed to be some background missing from the SEALs this was focused on, and the action scenes were pretty much unbelievable (Apparently American soldiers can take bullet after bullet but anyone else will die after one shot, oh and Americans can also jump off cliffs and survive with only a couple scratches) but it is just a movie and for that I liked it. Heres my review: http://bit.ly/1znELtN