Lone Survivor Film Review
War is an ugly game that is all about developing a relationship with chaos. Peter Berg’s Lone Survivor pits its audience in the chaos of war, as the film focuses on four Navy Seals sent to neutralize a dangerous Taliban operative. It’s 2005, and these band of warriors are sent in for a quick hit that turns into an ill-fated fight for their lives. Mark Wahlberg leads the talented cast, including the underrated Ben Foster, Emile Hirsch, and Taylor Kitsch.
Peter Berg has shown us that he can deliver an action-packed movie, as he’s proven that with the Kingdom, but Lone Survivor is its superior. This film is a non-stop thrill ride that never loses its connection with the human side of war. What do we lose from the experience? What do we gain? The script raises those questions within these true events in a very natural way. The firefight the Seals are involved in is accurate, from the way they move, handle their weapons, to the way the gunfire sounds. It’s not perfect, but it’s far from Hollywood action.
This film wouldn’t work without the right performances, and all four main actors do an amazing job. There’s little screen-time that shows the development of their brotherhood, but you feel it in the way they interact with each other on the mission. Emile Hirsch, playing Danny Dietz, does a fantastic job of portraying a solider that fights until the end, while still embracing his fear. Relative shouts of “this sucks” and various profanities just seems so natural to say, and that’s exactly what he does. Taylor Kitsch, playing Mike Murphy, also turns in a solid performance as the leader of the group. He’s courageous and self-sacrificing, like a big brother that will do anything to protect his family. One performance that stood out a little more than the rest comes from Ben Foster, who plays Matt “Axe” Axelson. He’s the voice of reason, and a bulldog of a soldier with so much to lose. When he’s taking out Taliban left and right, and says “I am the reaper,” you can’t help but cheer him on. The main spotlight belongs to Mark Wahlberg, playing Marcus Luttrell, giving a bold performance. Wahlberg , as Luttrell, is gritty and desperate, yet admirable in his will to fight and survive. Overall, there is no actual lead, but the group as a whole is the “main character.”
Lone Survivor puts us in the fight, and it doesn’t ever let up. We’re there with these four soldiers to the end, and we admire them for their willingness to fight and endure. There’s nothing more admirable than witnessing the will of the human soul in the most trying times.
The third act of the film just isn’t as good as everything before it. It’s not really surprising about what Luttrell goes through at that point in the film because we know that he survives. The way he survives seems a bit Hollywood, especially with the kid and all, but it does work for the film. Overall, the third act that contains the reveal of humanity in wartime felt rushed, and the impact of the film suffers for that.
The action of the film is quite good, but there are instances where you may start thinking that some things don’t make sense. For example, all the RPG explosions, in the way they’re portrayed in the film, probably would have done a lot more damage then they did. Additionally, one scene, or maybe two for some, comes off a bit comedic; it’s almost like the film takes a page from Hot Rod.
It seems as though Berg didn’t want to differentiate the Navy Seals too much, but they’re characters aren’t bold enough to stand out from one another throughout the entire film. Perhaps it would have been a better approach to show more differences between their characters so that we can invest in them for different reasons.
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