Lone Survivor (2014)
Dir. Peter Berg
Lone Survivor is a film I’ve been avoiding, but knew I had to see eventually. The ad campaigns for it made it seem like just an okay Team America sort of film. Yet, the press was talking about it being an Oscar contender. Though it didn’t pan out that way (it has two nominations: in sound editing and sound mixing), I finally decided it was time to sit down and see what the fuss was about.
The film chronicles the failed Navy SEAL Operation Red Wings during the Afghanistan War. The operation was held in 2005 and sought to kill a major Taliban leader. However the soldiers tasked to do so were compromised and what follows is the troops fighting to survive against impossible odds.
I’m just going to start this section by saying that Lone Survivor is not a bad movie in any regards. It’s just not a great one. Based on the title and history, we all have a fair assumption that it doesn’t end 100% well: it’s just a matter of how and when. Lone Survivor does it well, but not well enough to make it outstanding. The dialogue and plot development is bland and predictable and that’s fine because it’s met with something to try and balance it.
The action of the film is it’s greatest strength. Everything before that feels bland and procedural and it isn’t until the first shot is fired that things really get kicking. It’s a brutal firefight that follows for the next hour or so into the movie that shows the direct consequences of war on its soldiers in very realistic ways. I was surprised at just how graphic the film got. It almost made up for the weak dialogue and character set up, but not quite.
There is a load of talented actors here, but this film provides somewhat middling performances from them. Taylor Kitsch and Emile Hirsch do some good work, but their characters kind of felt the same. Ben Foster, who I believe to be a very underrated actor, does a fine job as well, but nowhere near his usual caliber. Mark Wahlberg is the whole show though and he carries the movie all right, but, once again, it isn’t as good as he can be.
I think that making a war film, a true story at that, that takes place while the conflict is still occurring, isn’t the best mode of moviemaking. Films about Iraq and Afghanistan should be made after the wars are over. It all sort of seems one sided and a little too patriotic when they’re made during. I would love to see a film regarding the other side of the conflict, like 2006’s Letters From Iwo Jima did for the Japanese in World War II. We’re not going to get that for a long time though, if ever.
Lone Survivor is a solid action movie; I just wish it wasn’t weighed down with the whole “Based on a true story” thing. It makes it seem almost propagandist: at least that’s what the advertisements make it seem like. It isn’t fully though, once it really gets going. Lone Survivor gets better as it goes along, I only wish it had gotten my attention from the very beginning.
Lone Survivor is still playing in theaters everywhere.