Lone Survivor (2013) Directed by Peter Berg. With Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster and Eric Bana.
Based on a book by Marcus Luttrell, which recounts the true events surrounding a covert Navy Seals operation inside Afghanistan, Lone Survivor represents a dramatic shift in tone and quality by director Peter Berg, whose last film, Battleship, if anything, was a cartoon glorification of military power and male bravado. That’s not to say that those things are off the menu in Lone Survivor, it’s more that they are an inherent piece of the drama, as opposed to being the things that propel it.
Mark Wahlberg takes the central role, as Marcus, leading a team of four soldiers on a mission deep inside enemy territory, amid the unforgiving Afghan mountains. As you’d guess, the theatre of combat is by nature, no matter how well prepared you are, unpredictable. And so, stuff ensues.
Early in proceedings, the film worried me. Knowing Berg’s previous work, I feared the tone might veer closer to that of a Call of Duty brand of mayhem, in order to sate the appetites of teenage boys, above any other demographic. Thankfully, once the obligatory bluster of male banter-bonding peaks, Berg does a good job of hammering home the “war is hell” message.
Taking into account that the film is a documentation of events from one man’s perspective, there are, of course, certain liberties taken. At times, especially during the combat sequences, it’s difficult to be completely convinced there isn’t some added sugar to the mix. Between the bone-crunching falls from cliff faces and multiple bullet wounds, some of the goings on momentarily take on a less than comfortable Rambo feel.
All things considered, however, the film is at pains to point out that not everyone in Afghanistan is a bad guy. The contrary, the final third becomes more a message about human beings united through the common desire to do the right thing, irrespective of nationality and borders. Berg’s direction is tight and his handling of the action is never less than impressive, while Wahlberg firmly leads the line. 3.5/5