Director: Peter Berg
Writers: Peter Berg, Marcus Luttrell (book)
Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster
Synopsis: Based on the failed June 28, 2005 mission “Operation Red Wings”. Four members of SEAL Team 10 were tasked with the mission to capture or kill notorious Taliban leader Ahmad Shahd.
After the atrocity that was Battleship, Peter Berg bounces back in a big way in Lone Survivor. Lone Survivor is based off a real life failed mission by the U.S. in Afghanistan back in 2005. If Berg captured 50% of the true story told by Marcus Luttrell (the real SEAL that survived the horrendous ordeal), then consider this a victory. The aesthetic Berg sets is quite amazing and the tone in the first act is potent and somber. Immediately, you know that you’re about to get into something of an ordeal that may not be exactly fun. Berg doesn’t give us much backstory but assumes you know what you’re walking into when the title of the film is Lone Survivor. The action sequences are powerful, moving and difficult to make through on some levels. If you’re a military person or fan, this will be a punch to the gut. While, this movie is rated “R”, don’t expect to see Saving Private Ryan type war here. Berg tones down much of the gore, which was a nice respectful touch to the families of these fallen soldiers. Lone Survivor is still an intense ride that will bring emotion and pride out of you. If you’re willing to forgive a lack of backstory, this is an easy movie that you’ll enjoy (I use that term loosely) or at least engage with.
Forget the politics. Forget any sense of propaganda. Those are dumb and unnecessary distractions, if they are at all. This incredible story follows a real-life account given by Navy SEAL, Marcus Luttrell, who survived a failed mission back in 2005, and wrote an amazing book on the event. If Luttrell’s story is true, it’s one of the most compelling war stories you’ll ever hear, especially in terms of survival. And while Berg left out many details, he sticks to Luttrell’s main plot points and gives you the sense of what these characters went through. There’s not much backstory to our main heroes, but there’s enough for you to realize these guys have normal lives outside of the military. On top of that, you get a genuine sense of brotherhood among these SEAL’s that only the few get to share. If you can get past the lack of development, and focus on the mission, the heroes involved and the kind of sacrifice these guys made, you will truly experience one of the most emotional war epics we’ve seen to date. The dialogue is fantastic and will surely move you. It’s not about one person, but rather a group of individuals who all went through hell and the story of how one person (sorry if that’s a spoiler, I thought the title gave it away) somehow made it out alive to re-tell this insane story. In the end, no matter the situation, you’re never out of the fight. Ultimately, that is Berg and Luttrell’s message here.
One of the best things about Lone Survivor, is that while it recounts how Luttrel survived this crazy ordeal, the film focuses on all the major players and not one specific person. It could of easily have been the Mark Wahlberg story but it’s far from that. Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch and Ben Foster play our four heroes, who were suddenly ambushed on that fateful day. Every single one of these actors put forth a great performance with a lot of emotion and fight into what they were doing. The chemistry was fluid and the action was gripping. Foster especially stood out in terms of delivering his dialogue during the fight. The emotion they pull is arduous but the heroism and fight is beautiful. Eric Bana and Alexander Ludwig have some small roles but are more than effective when on screen. Luttrell himself even has some screen time as another SEAL. The camera actually shows him several different times and he even has a few lines of dialogue which was interesting and a nice touch to the film as well.
There’s not one composer in Hollywood that flies under the radar more that Steve Jablonsky. Easily, he’s the best composer that no one talks about very much. A product of Hans Zimmer, Jablonsky has a score that is absolutely amazing and is so appropriate to the tone of the movie. Berg knew that this is not an easy story to watch but it’s one full of emotion and heroism. And he wanted Jablonsky’s score to reflect that, which it does on all accounts. It’s upbeat in the action moments but somber in the dark moments. The score here only makes me love Jablonsky more. Not to mention, the absolute beautiful song Heroes by Peter Gabriel, which was the perfect song to end the film.
Before watching Lone Survivor, lay down any politics you have and live in the moment of this story. Too many times people, and especially critics, get distracted by what they think is dumb propaganda. This movie is not trying to do anything except tell this incredible story based on the account of a man who actually lived it and survived. Politics is absurd here. The story is emotional and shows the kind of sacrifices American men and women in the military make every day. Even when things go wrong, their stories are worth noting and seeing. Lone Survivor is definitely one of those stories.