There is a scene in Lone Survivor that I can only describe as visceral – and when I say that, I am referring to its definition as relating to the viscera. At a point in the story, our protagonists must decide to either face their enemies with little to no cover and dwindling supplies, or plummet over the edge of what would be generously described as a bloody steep mountain face. When they made their inevitable choice, I actually folded my arms together and squinted in discomfort. It has its flaws, but Lone Survivor is one of the most visceral movies I have ever seen.
• Director: Peter Berg
• Exhibition: 2D
• Rating: 15
• Run Time: 121 mins
Lone Survivor is a movie based on the memoirs of a former United States Navy SEAL, Marcus Luttrell. While I am not sure how much coverage the story got in the news at the time, all I can say is I went into this movie with as little knowledge on the subject as you can – especially when it is actually called Lone Survivor. Despite this, I can now say that the plot revolves around a particularly perilous mission undertaken by four SEALs behind enemy lines and chronicles what happened when the feces was flung with explosive force at the fan.
Luttrell (Wahlberg) and his four-man reconnaissance and surveillance team are tasked with investigating a Taliban-held village as it may be linked to an important member of the hierarchy of the organisation. Things take a turn for the worse when the men must make what they know could be a life or death decision. While I would not want to spoil the movie, it must be said that the title itself kind of does that already!
In a story like this, which boils down to one scene in particular, you need to care about these characters and their plight to get truly wrapped up in the drama of it all. Unfortunately Berg doesn’t allow us enough time to really get to know these characters, to the point where their character names have completely slipped my mind. All we get is a few minutes at the start that begins to fall into cliché territory quite quickly (conversations with loved ones over the web, preparations being made for events we know will not happen etc.). I will say that all of the main actors give solid performances, especially Wahlberg and Foster, and do just enough to ensure I stayed well away from the boredom section of the enjoyment spectrum.
Whatever I think about his character building, Berg does excel in the action stakes. There is a gun fight in the middle of the movie that pretty much takes up most of the running time but never feels over-long. Berg is able to ratchet up the tension continuously. By the end of the movie, I had to pry my hands from the arm-rests.
This extended middle section of the movie unfortunately does have the knock-on effect of reducing the beginning and ending sections though, in turn reducing a lot of the periphery characters to mere caricatures. At one stage, a Taliban commander is shown to be evil by threatening some local villagers… just to prove he is indeed evil. This is also true of the some of the SEALs the main characters interact with; we have a rookie wishing to prove himself, a tough commander with a heart of gold etc.
Despite its many issues, Lone Survivor is a powerful look at what exactly armed forces go through – usually unseen by the public. At times gung-ho, at others an uncompromising look at the lives of those in service, Berg is absolutely upfront in showing us that these men chose this and never lets us forget it.