***1/2 (out of 5)
January 10, 2014
Mark Wahlberg as MARCUS LUTTRELL
Taylor Kitsch as MICHAEL MURPHY
Emile Hirsch as DANNY DIETZ
Ben Foster as MATT “AXE” AXELSON
Yousuf Azami as SHAH
Ali Suliman as GULAB
Eric Bana as ERIK KRISTENSEN
Directed by: Peter Berg
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
I’ve never been a big fan of Peter Berg as a director (or as an actor, for that matter). Behind the camera, I’ve always felt that he was more of a Michael Bay wannabe than anything else. His toy brand action film “Battleship” (which, ironically, was his penance to Universal for them to fund “Lone Survivor”) proved this fact.
Berg has been responsible for some pretty dreadful movies, like “The Rundown” and “Friday Night Lights.” (I know I’m in the minority with that latter one, but man, I hated that movie.) However, there is one thing about the man that is undeniable: He is passionate about honoring the service men and women in the military.
With this knowledge, it’s no surprise that his best film of recent years was “The Kingdom,” which was steeped in the geopolitical violence of today. In a way, “Lone Survivor” could be a companion piece to “The Kingdom” since it deals with similar widespread issues and is set against the backdrop of America’s current military conflicts.
However, “Lone Survivor” is a better film because it stays closer to the truth behind a real story rather than being a fabricated fictional piece. This keeps Berg from preaching too much (which he does abound in “The Kingdom”), and it also puts the focus on the real-life characters he is trying to honor.
“Lone Survivor” is a true story about a Navy SEAL team whose mission in the mountains of Afghanistan is compromised. When hundreds of Taliban forces come after the SEALs, they find themselves first on the run, and then pinned down, in a desperate struggle to survive.
What works in this movie is that Berg works to make the characters in the movie real people. They aren’t marginalized stereotypes that Hollywood often presents for military personnel. It is also a welcome relief to see military men portrayed as people doing a job they chose, rather than the awkward head cases barely able to keep their lives together.
When it comes to depth of plot, there isn’t a lot of twists and turns in “Lone Survivor.” It’s not meant to be a tightly-written, dialogue-heavy epic. Instead, we are given a look at a boots-on-the-ground mission that falls apart at the seams.
The real meat to this film is a spotlight on the decision-making process that people like these SEALs have to go through every day. So many things are considered – from their own survival to how their actions could have lasting impact in the global political theater. We see the ugly consequences to the difficult decisions that need to be made, and we see how this can turn out really bad, even if the decision is the right one to make.
To accuse “Lone Survivor” of being a flag-waving film is short-sighted. This isn’t about patriotism, but rather about sacrifice within the real world. Things in reality do not always fit neatly into a moral box, and actions have real consequences. Berg doesn’t seem to have made the film as a piece of propaganda or to get people to chant “U! S! A!” at the screenings. He made the film to celebrate American heroes who put their lives on the line, and suffer the consequences.
The only unfortunate element about this film is the title itself is a spoiler. Taken from the book written by Marcus Luttrell, it makes sense. However, it doesn’t leave much to chance when you see the film, and that can soften its eventual impact.