Movie Review: Lone Survivor

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I am in desperate need of guidance here. How is the it that the same director that brought us such an intense and ultimately moving story of heroism, bravery, resolve and sacrifice also brought us BATTLESHIP. Peter Berg has had his ups and downs in the director’s chair, but in my eyes his lowest of the low is that complete abomination that was 2012’s BATTLESHIP. It’s one of the reasons I wasn’t all that sold on giving LONE SURVIVOR a chance- but I’m happy to say I did.

It’s no secret that the title alone is a spoiler- at least to anyone that didn’t read the synopsis going in. The film dramatizes a failed Navy SEALS mission to capture a high profile member of the Taliban. Essentially the mission is compromised when the soldiers opt not to kill a pair of civilians that stumble upon them and because they let them go they find themselves surrounded by Taliban forces shortly after.

The spoiler in my eyes isn’t that one of the men happens to make it out alive, it’s that as an audience member I wondered how anyone could have survived the amount of punishment these guys go through. Riddled with bullets, RPGs blowing up just feet away from them, steep and painful tumbles down heavily wooded areas as well as a rocky mountain- it’s taxing to watch what these men go through.

The performances are award worthy, but in a film like this that’s not exactly a problem. The performances are strong, they just are not at a heightened level that would prompt attention in that regard. Essentially there isn’t much to the script except your normal military talk and some male bonding which is good for some laughs right before the action grabs you by the throat for the rest of the film.

For the most part the violence, shocking as it can be, isn’t all that gratuitous save for one specific moment involving one of the four main characters who’s death I found needlessly graphic. The moment was incredibly shocking to me even if I was sitting waiting for it to happen due to the length that the camera was lingering on the shot. Other than that though the violence is not atypical to your normal war film except that since the film follows just the four soldiers it’s brutal to see the punishment they go through.

It isn’t until the end of the film that the reality of what was just witnessed comes crashing down. The proceeding events taken from Marcus Luttrell’s (the actual survivor of the events) book are immensely engaging so it’s easy to get lost in the fact that this is an account of true events. It’s at the end when the photos of all the men who lost their lives that day with their families and friends that you’d have to be made of stone to not get choked up. The power of the end visuals is complimented by the training footage in the beginning and the film sandwiched in-between provides the connective tissue that secretly builds the emotional response most will likely have.

LONE SURVIVOR is a beautifully shot action drama that packs an emotional wallop. It’s still hard for me to comprehend how Peter Berg could follow up one of the most hollow film experiences I’ve ever witnessed with one as exciting, emotional and fulfilling as LONE SURVIVOR. The events of the film are certainly in your face and a bit excessive at times, but even still I was never bored and a always thoroughly engaged with the intense action for almost the entire last hour of the film. Be prepared for a roller coaster ride for the nearly non-stop action, but also have some Kleenex handy for the photo slideshow just before the credits.

Rating: B+

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