Director: Peter Berg
Main Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster, Eric Bana
Duration: 121 minutes
Release Date: 20 February, 2014
The New Daily says: This war film dramatises ‘Operation Red Wings’, a real-life operation undertaken by SEAL Team 10, who were tasked with hunting down a key Taliban leader in Afghanistan in 2005.
This is a worthwhile, but by no means an easy watch. Apart from the cheers for American military supremacy and mateship strengthened by adversity, Lone Survivor is otherwise the big-budget action equivalent of 127 Hours – a slow and agonising fight for survival.
This is, quite literally, not a film for the girls. Not a single female actress is credited, and (from memory) not a single woman has a speaking part for the entire two hours of screen time. The human element of the story is reserved for the bonds of brotherhood. There is a heavy dose of Marine propaganda, but thankfully a little less soppy American patriotism. The point is rammed home that a soldier’s first loyalty is to his fellow soldiers, and not his government or the rule of law.
This could be considered a film in the same vein as Saving Private Ryan, with all of the bullet wounds, protruding bones and blood, but less of the seeping intestines and high quality of acting.
The movie is best when it focuses on battle. Military purists will scream frustratedly at the rocket-propelled grenades that explode with the force of a handheld firecracker, and the numerous missed potshots. But aside from questions of ballistic accuracy, the terrifying feel of being pinned down and chased relentlessly in unyielding terrain is powerfully portrayed. It deviates when Berg uses slow motion and clunky one liners to tell rather than show the brutality of war.
Some of the most horrific scenes are the numerous cliff falls, which look real because they are. Numerous stunt doubles were badly injured tumbling down mountainsides to make these scenes. Its most disappointing aspects are the cheesy Hollywood additions to the true story, which seem entirely unnecessary when compared to the real tale.
The film’s Academy Award nominations for Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing are well-deserved. The whine of bullets and crunch and sickening thuds of the numerous injuries sustained by the marines are integral to the movie’s grittiness.
The Sydney Morning Herald: “it’s a war film that treats warfare in the most narrow of terms, thematically and spiritually. It’s only the closing credits that explain key decisions in the closing scenes, but whatever transpires the movie pushes onwards. Lone Survivor, like its hardy protagonists, is determined to get the job done.”
The Guardian says: “The film is a pumped-up Hollywoodisation of a true story… It would be better to get a documentary about this episode, not a flag-waving drama.”
Variety says: “Peter Berg’s scorching, often unbearably brutal account of a doomed 2005 military mission in Afghanistan is perhaps the most grueling and sustained American combat picture since ‘Black Hawk Down.’”
Rotten Tomatoes: Critics rate it 75%, Audience 90%.