Friday, January 10, 2014

Lone Survivor Movie Review

Emile Hirsch stars in Lone Survivor

Get Ready to Fight 

It doesn't take long to become emotionally invested in Peter Berg's oft-mesmerizing war film Lone Survivor... The opening credits take care of that: It's where we're introduced to the rigors of real-life Navy Seal training. It looks and feels like a recruiting pitch... but there's something brutally honest about it. Definitely enough to hook an audience's interest in the story of Operation Red Wings, a failed 2005 mission in Afghanistan, that claimed the lives of 19 U.S. soldiers. Led by an engaging and star-studded cast, the film effectively steals your heart while sparing no punches. War is Hell, and Berg comes awfully close to taking us there in a handbasket.

Rotten Tomatoes Plot: LONE SURVIVOR, starring Mark Wahlberg, tells the story of four Navy SEALs on an ill-fated covert mission to neutralize a high-level Taliban operative who are ambushed by enemy forces in the Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan. Based on The New York Times bestseller, this story of heroism, courage and survival directed by Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights) also stars Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster and Eric Bana.

What’s Best: Lights, Camera, Action. From the moment the recon team aborts their mission, Lone Survivor becomes a one-note, tension-filled battle to get out alive. The action sequences are nothing short of spectacular... from incredible sniper shots to unbelievable tumbles down treacherous terrain. I came this close to looking away, half-a-dozen times. Whatever they paid those stunt guys... It wasn't enough.

Better still, this isn't a video game... it's real life. All four Seals take umpteen shots and brutal falls; yet never stop moving. I couldn't help but recall Jesse Ventura's 'I ain't got time to bleed' line in Predator. Packing opens wounds with dirt... This is war. Dietz (Hirsch) gets it right, 'I don't understand how fucking fast they are," while referring to the Taliban soldiers. I felt exhausted two-thirds way through the film, and I was only watching it. Credit Berg for placing his audience smack in the middle of the fray.

What’s Not: From the word GO (opening credits) Berg paints his canvas with a heavy hand of patriotism. Trust me: You're going to want to sign up for combat duty when it's over. It makes you wonder though, "Is this movie great, or is Berg pushing all the right buttons?"

You're bound to notice a few similarities between Berg's film and Black Hawk Down, but on a much smaller scale. Lone Survivor could have benefited from a little less action, and more interaction between the Seals themselves. The recon team hits the mountain 20 minutes into the movie.... That's too soon for me. Also, the ending (while impressively heroic) feels oddly anti-climatic, and far from satisfying.

Best Line: There are moments of levity, such as a fun exchange between Marcus Luttrell (Wahlberg) & LT Murphy (Kitsch) over Arabic horses, "They're Arabian!" but most of the lines are poignant. Take Axelson's 'This feels like a cursed op,' to which Luttrell replies, 'There's no curses. It's just Afghanistan. That's all.' To be fair, this is an action film... with little emphasis on talk.

Overall: It's not easy coming to grips with the fact that this movie doesn't have a happy ending (It's called Lone Survivor for a reason.) It's even harder to watch four heroes take an unrelenting beating for about 40 minutes, without so much as a chance to catch your breath. This isn't a film for the faint of heart; and odds are you're going to be mad as Hell during and after it.

What makes Lone Survivor such a great movie is the roundabout way it starts conversations. Moral dilemmas (I can tell you I wouldn't have voted the way they did) and rules of engagement that literally handcuff our soldiers, for the sake of "God only knows." It's beyond frustrating at times... even more so, when you consider it happens in real life, and more often than we think.

That said, there's a beauty in the film that's impossible to disguise. It's the unwavering bond between four men... four guys, who take bravery, loyalty and sacrifice to levels we can only dream about. I sleep better knowing people like these exist: It gives me hope for change, hope for something better.