Directed by: Peter Berg
R. 121 mins
A heavy subject and visceral action sequences make for an immersive experience, even if some may find it all too much. Based on the bestselling novel, the film recalls a few fateful days in 2005, when four Navy SEALs (Wahlberg, Hirsch, Foster & Kitsch) embark on a doomed mission to neutralize a high-ranking Taliban operative. Ambushed by enemy forces in the Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan, the men lose all communication with their base and are forced to endure the skirmish on the dangerous mountainside against an enemy that seems unbeatable. Of course, only Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg) would survive the horrific ordeal.
Directed by Peter Berg (Hancock, Friday Night Lights), the film is effective when delivering the sensation of what it must feel like to be in a war zone. Unfortunately, the film isn’t as successful in conveying a message outside the genre conventions of a war film, and an American one at that. Themes of courage and sacrifice are all at play, but the characters themselves are not so memorable given its rudimentary dialogue and horrific violence, which conveniently interrupts any dialogue. The questions that surround this war and the purpose of it all – if any – are never explored and there is little-to-no reflection on the part of these soldiers. Granted, the action begins so swiftly that there isn’t much time for that but it’s a shame that there isn’t more backstory given to these soldiers, especially since this is based on a true story. While the cast delivers committed performances, the quartet are painted as pretty standard American boys, with families waiting for them at home and no tangible personalities outside of their patriotism and no questions about this ridiculous situation they’ve been put in. But perhaps all this reflection is for the audience… Some may even find the conclusion of the film to be quite manipulative but the film is undeniably powerful.
One of a handful of war films that truly brings us into the action, even as it unsettles and fascinates us, Lone Survivor will be a hit amongst a certain crowd. In favour of combat over context, this is an intense depiction of the struggle to survive against all odds. Both frightening and maddening, it’s a grim story that holds true for far too many.