War movies are a breed all there own. Some come across as massive spectacles of patriotism while others push the reality of these events on the viewer. Depending on the story, the realism can either heighten or frighten the audience. Since the emergence of Paul Greengrass and the universal acceptance of steadicam, combat films have become at once more manic and yet more intimate. The immediacy of the shots pulls those watching into the story. The stakes feel higher; the violence more tangible.
Last year, “Zero Dark Thirty” took a story of a manhunt in and added procedural elements to it. Mixed with scenes of intense combat, and a fantastic climax, the film balanced tension and action. This year, director Peter Berg has heightened the genre in a more basic level.
Berg directs “Lone Survivor,” the story of Operation Red Wing in Afghanistan in 2005. The film follows a team of Navy Seals who begin a routine mission to eliminate a high-ranking member of the Taliban. When the mission is compromised, the team must do everything they can to hold off the Taliban troops until rescued.
Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Ben Foster, and Emile Hirsch play the roles of the Seal team sent into the mountains of Afghanistan. With a cast this solid, the film is in very capable hands. The chemistry between the men mimics that of their real life counterparts. Being based on a true story, Berg scripts and executes a graphic and intense depiction of an operation compromised. Act I focuses on establishing the distinct characters and the lingo that becomes shorthand in the more intense scenes to follow.
“Lone Survivor” is an exceptionally strong film. From the editing to the to acting to the sound, “Lone Survivor” is a no-holds-barred movie that excels at everything it sets out to do. Building on the surprise success of “Act of Valor,” “Lone Survivor” has reignited an entire genre that has spent the last decade or more in oblivion. Put this film up there with “The Hurt Locker,” and see that less is more.
Of all the films currently vying for Oscar attention, this is one of the more exhausting. Similar to “Prisoners,” the intense nature of the film doesn’t let up. When the credits eventually roll, showcasing the lives lost during Operation Red Wing, the audience won’t move. The journey of those two hours is both a reminder to our fallen heroes of the armed forces, but also brings tears to the eyes of those too have served. Patriotism may not be the most marketable element to push a film, but “Lone Survivor” is a war movie that will blow you away. 4 out of 5 stars
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