Lone Survivor

Director: Peter Berg

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster, Eric Bana

Written by: Peter Berg, (based on the book by) Marcus Luttrell and Patrick Robinson

Running Time: 121 mins

Cert: 15

Release date: 30th January 2014

It doesn’t need a spoiler alert to tell you that the title Lone Survivor is going to give most of the plot for this flag waving propaganda war film away. What it doesn’t tell you is that this movie, based on true events, is a cold, sometimes unintentionally laughable account of a failed mission by the Navy SEALs during the Afghan campaign against the Taliban.

Operation Red Wings is set up to track down a Taliban leader hiding in the mountains of Afghanistan. Led by Michael Murphy, four Navy SEALS are sent in to find him and to then put the operation into action. After hiding out in the hills, they eventually find their man just as the Taliban find them. With no real communication, the four must fight for their survival in terrain they are unfamiliar with and where they have to look after each other as well as themselves.

I think I need to say this before I get loads of complaints that I can see what writer/director Peter Berg wanted to do here. He wanted to make a film based on the true events that show the bravery and courage of four men fighting an almost impossible battle for survival. The problem is that Berg has approached this with little or no subtlety whatsoever, so instead of feeling for these men, you ultimately don’t really care and you already know what the outcome will be.

After a slow start were we see the four messing around at camp, bullying the raw recruits and generally showing us that they are great friends, they head for the hills and lay low while waiting for their target. This takes up a large chunk of the running time and so are left wondering if anything will eventually happen. Then is does and we get gun and rocket fights all over the place as the four desperately try to stand their ground while surrounded by the enemy. This is where the film becomes somewhat laughable.

They are four men, being hit by bullets all over the place. They fall of cliffs, sending them tumbling down rocky sides and crashing into trees, rocks and solid ground below. The sound effects alone make you wince with pain…and yet they still get up! Yet one shot from the SEALS gun and a Taliban is instantly killed. I know that the SEALS are a tough bunch (we get an introduction to their world at the beginning of the film where we see real SEALS training) but Rambo they ain’t!

This is a hugely one-sided affair that makes basically cries out to young men that, they too can be almost indestructible as how main protagonists here. Berg script is pretty clichéd too, with every other word beginning with F and lines like “Shake it off, you’re a Frogman!” to a man who has just had his fingers shot off. With scenes like this, you find yourself feeling cold to the leads and when the inevitable finally happens, you find yourself unable to emote towards them.

The performances are pretty average. Mark Wahlberg is fine but it’s hardly stretching him and with talent like Emile Hirsch and Ben Foster, who we know can deliver, they are somewhat wasted.

The final part of the film tries to balance the opinion by saying that there are some good Afghans out there and their all not terrorists but this doesn’t seem to be enough. Then it plays a very dubious card by showing the soldiers involved in this bungled mission while a slowed down version of David Bowie’s Heroes, performed by Peter Gabriel, plays in the background. It doesn’t fit right.

The action sequences are handled well but that cannot disguise that this is Hollywood’s vision of the war in Afghanistan. Last year’s Zero Dark Thirty didn’t shy away from showing us a darker view-point of American policy. This is much more jingoistic and probably will play better in the States. Here, we will certainly look upon in a very different light. I certainly did and I didn’t like what I saw.


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