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Movie Review - ‘Lone Survivor’ reminds us what a war film should look like

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Lone Survivor

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Navy strong – Unless you have served in the military or lived with someone who has, it’s hard to know what that life experience is like. Factor in the type of job that same loved one might be going off to do and it becomes even more of an unknown. This might explain why a majority of us learn so much by watching these types of military missions and stories on the big screen. Sure, we may read about them or watch a report on CNN, but a film like “Lone Survivor” goes deeper to tell the true story and reminds us of the sacrifice taken by our soldiers to protect this country.

The story here… follows ‘Operation Red Wings’ back in 2005 when a Navy SEAL team of four (Luttrell, Dietz, Murphy and Axelson) dropped onto the slopes of Sawtalo Sar Mountain in Afghanistan’s Kunar Province for surveillance and reconnaissance. The mission was to monitor a location said to be occupied by Ahmad Shah and his group of Taliban fighters. One afternoon while resting, they encountered three shepherds who were herding sheep in the area. After a brief argument, they capture them and try to contact base for instructions, but are unsuccessful due to communication issues. They all agree killing the shepherds would not compromise the mission, but after a vote, team leader Mike Murphy (Taylor Kitsch) decides to uphold the rules of engagement and releases them. Within the hour, the four SEALs were blanketed with Taliban fighters forcing them to fight back in hopes of getting to higher ground for extraction. But, given the rough terrain, that would not happen as this team of four became a team of one within minutes leading to a conclusion that will have you both shocked and humbled; especially when the credits start rolling.

Acting out – Judging by the title, I’m sure you have guessed who played the survivor in this one. If not, you need to get out and see more movies, because the movie poster gives it away. With that said, I certainly didn't mind Mark Wahlberg carrying that role here given his recent resume. Sure, he is the biggest name attached to the film outside of Eric Bana, who was barely in it, but that doesn't mean he gets a pass. Wahlberg had to manage a lot, once the rest of his cast members were no longer in the picture, which is not as easy as it looked. But, he handled it like he had done it before; making you believe and feel everything his character, Marcus Luttrell, was going through as the only SEAL left. It was gripping and another example of how far Wahlberg has come as an actor since bursting onto the scene in “Boogie Nights.” That said, he did have help from pretty much everyone involved, both credited and un-credited. And leading that charge was Taylor Kitsch, who played LT Michael P. “Murph” Murphy. Maybe it was his role, but he was fun to watch for the time he was around making you wonder why we haven’t seen more of him since he left TV’s Friday Night Lights. Kitsch has a natural way about him and really makes you feel comfortable with whatever he is doing. So, I see why director Peter Berg has stuck with Kitsch and fully expect to see him again in the near future.

The right way – A lot of directors’ in Hollywood go about their business without really ever digging that deep into what they are filming. It’s business first and foremost, but some directors want to get a little more out of it and Peter Berg certainly falls into that category. Maybe it’s because he was an actor first, having appeared in over 40 films, but all along he knew why he came to Los Angeles. It was to take on stories like the one here, which he adapted from the 2007 nonfiction book of the same name by Marcus Luttrell and Patrick Robinson. And Berg just doesn’t show up and start filming; he studies everything about the subject, paying attention to every detail that he will undoubtedly carry into the film in some way. Here, he went to the families of the fallen heroes to learn more about who they were and why being a Navy SEAL meant everything to them. Berg even embedded with a Navy SEAL team in Iraq, becoming the first civilian to do so, to help him understand his subject even more as he wrote the script. He does all this because he cares and wants to tell stories other filmmakers are afraid of telling. But, that’s not all, Berg also wants the action sequences to be as realistic as possible and here took that sentiment to an entirely new level. I couldn’t believe what I was watching at times, especially during the scenes where the SEALs were tumbling down the mountain to get away from gunfire. It took your breath away and that’s just one example from a film that really never let off the gas after the opening credits.

Bottom Line – “Lone Survivor” might look just like another war film, but it’s so much more when you actually sit down to watch it. Layered with some truly excruciating action that I haven’t seen since watching “Black Hawk Down,” I never once felt disconnected from this story. That speaks volumes to the job Peter Berg did, both pre and post production, ensuring his message about brotherhood and how important it is within a team like this.

A-

CLICK HERE to read more from Marcus

CLICK HERE to see when and where “Lone Survivor” is playing near you

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