Lone Survivor

Movie Information

The Story: Four Navy Seals in the Afghani wilderness are ambushed by Taliban forces. The Lowdown: Its inherent nastiness and fits of being little more than an '80s action movie throwback keep the film from reaching its lofty intentions.
Genre: War Action
Director: Peter Berg (Battleship)
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster, Eric Bana
Rated: R

With its platform release and studio push, Peter Berg’s Lone Survivor was obviously groomed for awards season. In theory, this makes sense in the context of the critical success of Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker (2008) and Zero Dark Thirty (2012). While I wouldn’t call myself a fan of those movies, Lone Survivor is nowhere near their league. Unfortunately, director Berg is a bit of a lightweight behind the camera. I’ll readily admit that I enjoyed his Battleship (2012) for what it was — a dumb, junky and occasionally entertaining sci-fi flick. Lone Survivor, despite its more lofty aspirations and real-life underpinnings, isn’t very far from the same kind of goofy cinema, turning into more of an ode to overcooked ‘80s action movies than the very serious — and very patriotic — movie it poses as.

Based on the nonfiction book Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell — who’s played here by Mark Wahlberg — it’s pretty easy to tell where the film is going. Of course, the movie takes two hours to get there. Luttrell is a Navy SEAL who, along with three other soldiers (played by Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch and Ben Foster), is sent into the mountains of Afghanistan to take out a Taliban leader (Yousuf Azami). There, they encounter some wandering goatherders and decide to let them go free, a decision that sends the Taliban after them in full force, far from the protection of the U.S. military. For a moment, the film attempts to get into more complex territory, raising questions as to what’s appropriate in combat (like letting innocent civilians free even if it means possible death).

These philosophical concerns, however, are soon dropped in a hail of bullets, explosions and patriotism. The last two-thirds of the film is basically one extended action sequence. The way Berg handles this is both boorish and problematic. The entire ambush led by the Taliban has the feel and bloodiness of torture-porn, as these men are shot, blown up, broken, cut and knocked down mountains. There’s an almost fetishistic way in which Berg films the action — from the wide-angle shots of massive guns to the splattery manner of the bloodshed. The climax is something out of some old Chuck Norris film, with random explosions and stuntmen launched over parked cars.

All of this is immediately followed by a tug-at-your-heartstrings moment that’s a Coca-Cola away from turning into that old Mean Joe Green commercial. There’s no emotional center (our heroes are merely sketched in, despite attempts at humanizing them early on), so Lone Survivor never packs the tear-jerking wallop it desperately wants and truly needs. Its coda (unfortunately set to a corny Peter Gabriel cover of David Bowie’s “Heroes”) proves the film has its heart in the right place. It’s just too blunt and nasty to follow through. Rated R for strong bloody war violence and pervasive language.

Playing at Carmike 10


Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

3 thoughts on “Lone Survivor

  1. Me

    Justin was cracking me up with his Lone Survivor Under Armour tweets.

  2. MattM

    Definitely agree with the ‘torture porn’ and ‘chuck norris’ comments, and the deaths were dragged out and sentimentalized. However, for me it didn’t undermine the emotionality of the film. The actors embodied well the narrow range of emotion that warrior archetypes tend to display, especially in the limited context that we saw them. So I found their struggle believable and totally heartbreaking. , The intro scenes were a little schmaltzy, but necessary and appropriately brief. And the ending was not at all schmaltzy or like a Coca Cola commercial – mainly because it really happened that way. (Well, the way he was rushed out of the village wasn’t accurate, but whatever, close enough). But I have a real soft spot for the cross cultural, brotherhood of man moments. Pushtanwali.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.