America and movies. Those are two of the things that I love most in this world. And “Lone Survivor”, the film based on the true events of a failed Navy SEALs operation, combines my two loves into one package.
Written and directed by Peter Berg, “Lone Survivor” stars Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch and Ben Foster as four Navy SEALs who go on a mission to kill a high ranking Taliban official. When their operation is compromised, the group must fight their way out of the Afghani Mountains.
When dealing with a film that is based on a true story, especially one that is as tragic and heartbreaking as this one, there is very little wiggle room a director can take if he wants to remain credible. Unfortunately all too often when a film slaps the “based on a true story” label in the front of its trailer it is just a marketing ploy.
However with “Lone Survivor”, Berg slept and ate with real Navy SEAL members while writing the script and designing the action scenes. The man on whom the film is based, Marcus Luttrell, was along for every step of production. The four main actors all went through military training in order to function like an actual unit. And it is all these things and more that make “Lone Survivor” one of the most realistic war movies of all-time.
The film is essentially one prolonged action scene, and for the most part that is alright. While the continuous action inhibits the film from having a real flow, it never feels like overkill. The movie, shot entirely in New Mexico, is at times entertaining to watch, but more often than not it is gritty, gruesome and heartbreaking to see these four young men go through hell.
All of the action is shot wonderfully, give or take some shaky cam every now and again, and the stunt work was outstanding. On more than one occasion the soldiers have to jump off a cliff and roll down a hill in all their gear, and you feel the impact of every snapping branch and crushing of each bone. It is just incredibly intense and major props go out to Berg and his team.
Every performance in this movie is fantastic as well. Each actor went to the friends and family of the man they were portraying in order to fully become that person and it shows. Every character has a different personality, which gives the film an extra layer.
As great as the acting is, however, the film suffers from the same problem as “Gravity” in that there is little characterization. We are essentially handed the characters and then when they are thrown into battle we are only rooting for their survival because they are in this horrible situation that we could never conceive being in.
The biggest thing that stuck with me upon leaving the theater, however, was trying to figure out the stance of the film; whether it was pro or anti-war. Because for as many “America, heck yeah!” moments and depictions of heroism and brotherhood the film had, there is the overarching thought that all these men died for nothing, and that these kinds of tragedies happen all too often. I feel like the movie was trying hard to convey some sort of ideal, but it just got lost behind its action.
There really isn’t anything incredibly wrong with “Lone Survivor”; in fact most every department involved did an outstanding job, including cinematography, special effects or make-up. The film’s biggest flaw may be that its scope was too big and it isn’t really about anything.
The men who died as part of the failed SEALs operation, and all men and women who have served up until this day, deserve nothing but the highest respect for their sacrifices and this movie does a noble job at honoring them. “Lone Survivor” may not be the best war movie ever made, but it is entertaining while at the same time brutally honest and heartbreaking. While not for the faint of heart, it is a film all should watch to see first-hand what the best and bravest do.
Critics Rating: 7/10