Saturday, November 23, 2013

“Lone Survivor” – Movie Review



This week, I had a chance to attend a Universal Pictures’ advance screening of their new action drama, “Lone Survivor”, based on the best-selling book; the film stars Mark Wahlberg & Eric Bana and is written & directed by Peter Berg.


When Navy SEALs sent to take out a Taliban leader are discovered before they can complete their mission, can they escape or will they be caught by the enemy?


In 2005, Lt. Cmdr. Erik S. Kristensen (Bana) sends a team of Navy SEALs on a secret mission in Afghanistan to kill a Taliban leader who himself is responsible for the death of United States Marines. Once in the region where their target is located, they spot him and report his whereabouts to headquarters. Shortly thereafter, they are discovered by a group of goat herders, whom they hold hostage. Following much debate on how to handle them, the SEALs decide that proper rules of engagement in war dictate it is best to let them go to return to their village.

Once the hostages are released, one of them informs the Taliban leader of the SEALs’ location. As the SEALs retreat, they try to contact headquarters to arrange for their pick-up, but technical problems prevent this communication from occurring. During this time, a group of Taliban soldiers surrounds them and an extended firefight ensues shortly thereafter. Although the SEALs are able to successfully dispatch quite a few of the Taliban attackers, it is not without a cost – most of them are seriously wounded, their equipment is lost or badly damaged and some lose their rifles in the chaotic battle.

By the end of the gunfight, all of the SEALs have been killed except for one: Marcus Luttrell (Wahlberg). Though injured, Luttrell evades his attackers and is rescued by an Afghani man from another village; the man, who does not belong to the Taliban, takes the obviously distressed Luttrell back to his village to care for him and hide him from the Taliban. When the Taliban visit the village and find Luttrell, the man and his neighbors are able to successfully fight them off and once again save Luttrell’s life. But how long can they keep the Taliban from capturing Luttrell and will he ever return safely to his base?


Here’s my dilemma: since “Lone Survivor” is based on a book which itself is based on a true story lived by people far tougher and braver than I, it is difficult to come down too hard on the movie without looking like someone who is wholly unsupportive of the military. On the other hand, if I don’t state my issues with the movie, I’m not being honest. So, let’s just put it this way: taking the film out of its context, I suppose “Lone Survivor” works well enough as an action/adventure picture – buy your ticket, get your popcorn and turn off your brain. Just as long as you don’t question anything, it’s all good.

As a tribute to all of the heroes that personally experienced this horror, however, it seems a bit lacking. First, let’s consider this as only a movie: with a title like “Lone Survivor”, aren’t you tipping off not only the story itself but also its ending as well? My understanding was that this was used because it was also the title of the book on which it was based – but even if that’s the case, there have been plenty of adaptations that don’t use the same title as its source material. Also, if the end hasn’t already been sufficiently tipped off in its title, it’s reinforced by opening with the resolution so you’ll know the ending – then, it proceeds to tell the whole story through flashback. I guess if you title a motion picture “Lone Survivor” and put Mark Wahlberg in it, you can pretty much guess who the Lone Survivor is going to be without even seeing the flick, no?

Following the screening, there was an interview with writer/director Peter Berg and the real Marcus Luttrell, who was portrayed by Mark Wahlberg. Luttrell said that when initially approached, he was reluctant to participate in the adaptation; once a movie executive said they were going to proceed regardless of whether or not he was on board, he decided to join just to make sure that scenes were shot as accurately as possible. Berg became inspired to get involved after reading the book; he was given a copy while  shooting another film and didn’t feel he could devote time to read it then. After being urged to read it immediately, he realized right away that this had to be his next film.


Lone Survivor (2013) on IMDb 7.1/10470 votes


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