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25 Movies to See Before the Oscars: 10. Lone Survivor

Nominations: Sound Editing, Sound Mixing

(L to R) Taylor Kitsch and Mark Wahlberg in 'Lone Survivor'

Calling Peter Berg’s Lone Survivor a great movie based automatically on its merit as a retelling of an amazing true story is grossly subjective and favoratist and totally unfair to all other movies. Fortunately for Berg, the movie actually is pretty good anyway and is probably one of the most accomplished films the actor/director has made to be lauded alongside his other good eggs like The Kingdom. The tellingly titled film is the recounting of Operation Red Wings, a SEAL op that took place in the Kunar Province of Afghanistan to hunt down a Marine-killing Taliban leader in June 2005. The recounting of the events is all parts sad and horrifying and emotional and awesome.

Politicians and the media would have the public believe, especially after the amazing take down of Osama bin Laden, that Navy SEALs are invincible – quite in keeping with the American obsession over the Superhero. In a sort of companion piece to 2004’s glory-in-defeat opus Friday Night Lights, Lone Survivor shows the other side of this notion, the truth about the vulnerability and the massive potential for disaster that is war. What SEAL Team 10, comprised of Michael Murphy (Taylor Kitsch), Matthew “Axe” Axelson (Ben Foster), Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch), and Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg), experienced on that recon mission pain in its purest definition, and trying to put a word like invincible in that conversation is almost grotesque – it depreciates from the things that really go on, like the sacrifice of life. But Berg doesn’t confront his audience with a blood-on-the-altar-of-freedom violence free-for-all; he takes pages from the appropriate predecessors, most notably Saving Private Ryan, and balances the brutality with the nuances of combat camaraderie – its makes the deaths all the more poignant as well as making the audience more likely to well up when you know that these guys like to watch Anchorman and tease each other about taking the marital plunge into having to pick out kitchen tile.

Lone Survivor was left out of all but technical categories in this year’s Oscar nominations, with its only two nods in Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. Unless you’re an expert in the field its always difficult to tell what movie will win in these categories and the like, but it is certain that this movie does hold a justified spot in those places. With one of the major motives of the film being to put its viewers in the pit of action and fire of those gunfights by making them feel every bullet wound and every crashing fall, the sounds of the crunched of bone and scraping on rocks and the unsettling squishes of blood and muscle is amplified for you to feel every moment. The award this movie really deserves is for it’s stunt team – but AMPAS doesn’t give an award for stunts. The special SAG award it received as such will have to make do.

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