Published on February 12, 2014 | by Ben Grazebrook

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Film review: Lone Survivor

★★★★

Lone Survivor film poster outside peckham plex cinema.

Hollywood films about the U.S Military often cause debate within the political spectrum. [Andy Fyles]

Lone Survivor tells the story of four Navy SEALs and their battle for survival once their covert operation is compromised.

Based on Marcus Luttrell and Patrick Robinson’s bestselling account, Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10, the film chooses to abandon much of the book and instead focusses almost entirely on a botched operation and its disastrous consequences faced by the soldiers.

Directed by Peter Berg (Battleship), the film follows a four man team; Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg), Lt. Michael Murphy (Taylor Kitsch), Danny P. Dietz (Emile Hirsch) and Matthew ‘Axe’ Axelson (Ben Foster), who are sent on a reconnaissance mission targeting Taliban commander, Ahmad Shah (Yousuf Azami).

Visually, the film is outstanding. The battle scenes are extremely harrowing and at times incredibly claustrophobic.

The shining light of Berg’s direction is the breathtaking mountain top descent in which the soldiers throw themselves from a mountain.

The earth shattering impacts and collisions are truly remarkable and leave the viewer feeling as battered and bruised as the soldiers.

Depth

The acting throughout the film, for the most part, is very good. Wahlberg and Kitsch in particular show good chemistry and add depth to their characters.

However, from a casting point of view it seems odd that Wahlberg plays the subordinate to Kitsch, with Kitsch being the noticeably younger actor.

Hollywood films about the U.S Military often cause debate within the political spectrum, but Lone Survivor has caused a vicious fight.

LA Weekly film critic Amy Nicholson wrote that the film “valorised death in disturbing, near pornographic ways.”

In response to Nicholson’s comment, Glenn Beck, a radio pundit, offered to fly Nicholson out to the film’s Dallas studio so that she could relay her views to Luttrell first hand.

Nicholson went on to say the theme of the film is essentially: “Brown people bad, American people good.”

I found Nicholson’s view to be somewhat true and one cannot help but feel that the outrageously clichéd Hollywood ending is Berg’s attempt to show that not all ‘brown people’ are evil.

The opening and closing scenes feel like advertisements for the Navy SEALs and, by the end of the film, you feel emotionally blackmailed by the over the top patriotism.

The notion that these men are American War Heroes is pumped into this movie at an alarming rate.

Berg caps this off by ending the movie with a slide show of the real soldiers in action, whilst David Bowie’s Heroes plays in the background.

This is definitely not Berg’s most subtle piece of directing, and it is this lack of subtlety that is ultimately the film’s downfall.

The opening and closing scenes feel like advertisements for the Navy SEALs and, by the end of the film, you feel emotionally blackmailed by the over the top patriotism.

At its core, Lone Survivor is the story of four soldiers and their ‘band of brothers’ mentality.

Despite a lack of finesse in its story telling, Lone Survivor has to be applauded for the honest way in which it displays the brutality of a failed military operation.

The action sequences are what makes Lone Survivor such an engrossing watch and, in my opinion, one of the best war films of the last decade.

Lone Survivor is currently showing in all UK cinemas.

 

 

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