Sometimes you have to put aside your political views, whatever they might be, and just appreciate a good story, well-told. Such is the case with “Lone Survivor.” Written and directed by Peter Berg, “Lone Survivor” is based on the non-fiction book by Marcus Luttrell and Patrick Robinson. It is Luttrell’s account of the June 2005 United States Navy SEALs mission in Afghanistan, Operation Red Wings—to capture or kill al Qaeda leader Ahmad Shah—which, as the title suggests, has a horrific outcome.
Berg does an excellent job in showing us what life is like on camp (and this film possibly wins the prize for the most facial hair on a cast), which leads to an interesting look into the psyche of the male soldier. Somehow he manages to capture the feeling of brotherhood throughout the film. We get an insider’s view of what the men think and do during the course of a day to escape monotony and boredom. These glimpses are some of the film’s best small pleasures and are wonderfully executed. The quietness of the camp comes into stark contrast with the action scenes as Luttrell and his comrades set out on their reconnaissance mission.
The advent of the grisly, in your face film-making of “Saving Private Ryan” brought a more realistic portrayal of what fighting is all about. Berg spares us few details regarding warfare. Although the combat scenes run for a long time, they are extremely well done and feel quite genuine. “Lone Survivor” also illustrates that war is not always black and white. The film shows some very real moral dilemmas the men face and how little time they have to consider the outcome of their decisions when under the gun…literally.
“Lone Survivor” is truly an ensemble piece. Mark Wahlberg as Luttrell, Taylor Kitsch as Michael Murphy, Emile Hirsch as Danny Dietz and Ben Foster as Matt ‘Axe’ Axelson form the group initially under fire. They convincingly portray what it’s like to be on the front lines and are especially great at once again demonstrating the concern and love they have for one another. In addition, Eric Bana as Lieutenant Commander Erik Kristensen and Alexander Ludwig as the rookie, Shane Patton, turn in excellent performances.
The film’s one false note is the music. It’s completely overdone and overwrought. The acting and what we’re seeing on the screen is compelling enough without the score telegraphing to the audience what it should be feeling.
Once you exit the theatre, it’s hard not to think about what you’ve seen. To Peter Berg’s credit, “Lone Survivor” presents more than just battle scenes and blood and guts. He puts the real men front and center and in so doing gives the audience the biggest favor…getting to know the men as human beings.