The holidays are a time to reflect – and rejoice with friends and family – about life. Director Peter Berg (“Friday Night Lights”, “The Kingdom”) takes on a story of survival that is a heart wrenching, and truthful depiction of the human spirit. “Lone Survivor”, based on Marcus Luttrell’s 2007 non-fiction book, follows the events of the failed United States Navy Seals mission during the war in Afghanistan.
Berg crafts an intimate narrative of the Seals men – who are not only loyal to country but also to each other – exposing the camaraderie and backstory that each of them bring to the frontline. He also excels at writing the nuances, quirks and specific language that a military operation carries throughout – and there is no sugar-coating at the explicit and disturbing scenes that follow the subject either. He brings the audience front and center of the storyline and characters of the real-life events that unfolded in 2005.
Mark Walhberg, who plays Luttrell in the film, leads the extraordinary team into a mission – that seems doomed from the start – to a small village to capture or kill a Taliban leader. The group of four runs into shepherds during recon procedure, and debate as to whether or not they might jeopardize their mission – and lives. The decision unravels a number of events – appalling in a time of war – but necessary for survival.
The world in “Lone Survivor” is not magical but raw and is enhanced through Berg’s close-ups and handheld approach through the battle scenes. Be forewarned that much of the action sequences are not for the unsettled – this is after all a war movie in a smaller scale but with a full sense of reality.
Peter Berg brings to the screen what might not be the expected feel-good holiday tale. But this is what makes “Lone Survivor” an exceptional gem and a must-see film. The focus is not about war – but the men that are at the war zone – particularly the men in Luttrell’s narrative that served with conviction, faith, and courage. It is also about the one that survived to tell it all – and celebrate them with the rest of the world.
"Lone Survivor" opens in NY and L.A. December 25. Opens nationwide on January 10.