Director: Peter Berg
MPAA Rating: R
Film Pulse Score: 5/10
When your film is titled “Lone Survivor” the viewing audience already knows how the film is going to end. The film is based on the memoir of Marcus Luttrell, the lone survivor of an op that had gone bad, which was co-written by author Patrick Robinson who apparently made numerous embellishments. With a screenplay by director Peter Berg, Lone Survivor ends up feeling like a stereotypical Hollywood movie as opposed to a powerful look at the struggle to survive.
On June 28, 2005, four members of SEAL Team 10 were sent on “Operation Red Wings.” Their mission was to capture or kill notorious Taliban leader Ahmad Shahd. After identifying their target the operation becomes compromised and they are forced to make a choice that could impact their mission. While attempting to obtain abstraction they come under fire and find themselves in the fight of their lives as they face an army of Taliban hell bent on capturing or killing them.
The film opens with a montage of training footage about soldiers going through boot camp. Training to become a SEAL will certainly test one’s mettle and this montage effectively shows how hard it is to become a member of the elite group. However, it doesn’t really dwell on why one would want to become one. Immediately after, the story opens with the rescue of Marcus Luttrell. Going in if you don’t know who is playing who or who actually makes it out alive any possible suspense is lost. At this point you are left wondering how the events unfold that lead to this. Unfortunately events unfold in typical studio fashion. When comparing it to something like The Hurt Locker this film is way out of its league. Lone Survivor can’t even attain a tenth of the tension that film created. It is literally halfway over before the operation goes terribly wrong and what you are left with is a masochistic look at men getting shot up, beat up and broken. Without the foreknowledge of who gets out, their dilemma might have proven engaging but as it is you’re just waiting for the inevitable.
The film stars Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Ben Foster and Emile Hirsch as the four SEAL team members. Performance wise they are okay but they don’t break any new ground in terms of playing soldiers. Foster and Hirsch while not getting that much screen time actually fair the best. Wahlberg and Kitsch suffer from giving those typical “Wahlberg and Kitsch” moments in which case you see the actor and not the character. Kitsch’s moment where he attempts to make radio contact during a firefight is drawn out and over the top. Wahlberg has a moment while he’s shouting at some locals that is typical Wahlberg. Perhaps it’s the fault of Peter Berg but the actors never give a sense of why these men joined or what makes them tick.
Berg successfully captures the firefights and those scenes really convey the direness of the situation. It’s an onslaught that goes on for a good half hour or so. However, when the third act takes a turn that seems too Hollywood to be fact which again brings up one’s suspicions about the validity of some of the story. There are sequences that are bit confusing because of how they played out or pertinent information wasn’t made clear in prior scenes. Other moments are impacted because something wasn’t made clear for example Luttrell suffers an injury that looks like a compound fracture but much later we discover it was shrapnel. Berg concludes the film with a montage of soldiers who were killed during the operation but he doesn’t give the audience a point of reference as to which actor played whom.
Lone Survivor has a harrowing story to tell. However, the film is fairly generic and ends up being a long exercise in watching the suffering of others. Structural problems take away any real suspense that the film could have mustered. It’s very likely that the book is better but considering the book actually has embellishments you may not get the whole story.