War films, when done right, can be some of the most harrowing cinema ever witnessed. With Lone Survivor there is no exception to this. Every wound sustained, every broken bone ripped through the skin, the camera is there in one of the most unflinching films based on true military events. While the film is very much about the fight to survive there is also a focus on brotherhood and what it really means to be one of the elite. The road to become a Frog Man (Navy SEAL) is one of the most treacherous and trying situations a human can put their bodies and minds through. In the beginning credits, as real footage of SEAL tryouts plays, an instructor says “You have to make a conscious decision to be here.” In other words, if one does not truly have their heart, soul, mind, and body committed one thousand percent to becoming elite, you will fail. It is through this insane boot camp that SEALs are born and brothers are formed. The film takes great effort in conveying just how important each soldier is to the man next to him.
After such an utter failure with Battleship, Peter Berg looks to redeem himself by taking on this project. Unlike that haphazard film before, this time, real people were the basis of the story and room for error was non-existent. This is a gritty and brutal tale that only asked for honesty when it was to be conveyed on screen. In this regard I certainly think that Mr. Berg succeeded and took this project a little more seriously. Unlike his previous efforts like Hancock and the aforementioned train wreck, Battleship (Seriously! What was he thinking with that one!?), the special effects took a back seat to story and character work and it was refreshing to see that Mr. Berg still cares about that sort of thing. Realism also, to an extent of course, had its time in the limelight here as well as every shot is felt. Every steep cliff side fallen from and every soldier taken too soon, it is showcased for you to cringe at and eventually cry over. Not many films can bring me to tears, but as the end credits began to roll, I felt a trickle down my cheek.
Berg obviously knew what this story meant to so many people and telling it right was priority number one. Number two was finding the right people to portray real life American heroes. Mark Wahlberg stars as Marcus Luttrell, Emile Hirsch as Danny Dietz, Taylor Kitsch as Mike Murphy, and Ben Foster as Matt Axelson, all whom were apart of SEAL Team 10. It is their sacrifices and love for one another that makes this something very special. It is a very visceral and nerve wracking film, but it becomes something more when we see peeks into their personal lives. They loved their calling, but couldn’t deny the want of being at home with their loved ones. When I saw the casting for this there was one big concern for me, Taylor Kitsch. He was in John Carter, Savages, and Battleship; he is the same person in every movie. He is not a very strong actor, but I can say pleasantly surprised, that he did a very good job in this film. His lack of skill in many areas didn’t hold the film down at all.
On June 28, 2005, Operation Red Wings began; the objective: Capture or kill known Taliban leader, Ahmad Shahd. SEAL Team 10 is tasked with the main objective as support waits miles away; they have radios and SAT phones but ultimately they prove to be useless. After an unfortunate early encounter with some local goat herders a decision must be made; kill the compromise or let them go. Fearing the backlash of news media and their own guilt as well as rules of engagement, they decide the ethical thing is to let them go, abort mission and get to a rally point to be taken back to base. The mission failed and the main objective now is to survive the impending wave of enemy forces certainly on its way. As mentioned before, due to faulty gear or just bad luck, they are on their own until contact can finally be achieved. Higher ground means better signal but more exposure to enemy fire that begins to rain all over their location. When it all comes down to the moment at hand, they have nothing but their rifles and each other to keep breath from leaving their bodies forever. It is their devotion and training and sheer will power that keeps them alive for the fight of their lives. I don’t think this is spoiling anything when I say that the title, Lone Survivor, is a bit telling as to how many will survive this nightmare. Let the battle begin!
One of my favorite parts, and the moment that brought tears to my face, was the very beautiful showing of those fallen on that fateful mission. In all more than a dozen soldiers were lost and this shows photos of each and every man that died there. Pictures of them in combat ready attire as well as personal photos of their families left behind showed that these men had lives but were prepared to give up their comforts for something more in the name of freedom and honor and the man next to them. This is a brutally honest look at a military operation gone horribly wrong and the actions these men took to survive, no matter how shot up, beaten down, they kept fighting. If you want to see a very close interpretation of what real life heroes go through, watch Lone Survivor, and bring some tissues.
Rated R For: strong bloody war violence and pervasive language
Run Time: 121 minutes
After Credits Scene: None
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Ben Foster, Emile Hirsch, Eric Bana, Alexander Ludwig, Jerry Ferrara
Directed By: Peter Berg
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 5/ Acting: 4/ Directing: 4/ Visuals: 5
OVERALL: 4.5 Nerdskulls
Check out the trailer below:
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