Sunday, March 9, 2014

Lone Survivor (2013)

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster, Yousuf Azami, Ali Suliman, Eric Bana, Alexander Ludwig

Director: Peter Berg

Synopsis: Based on the novel Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10, Mark Wahlberg plays real life survivor Marcus Luttrell. Luttrell is part of a team of 4 Navy SEALs dropped in the mountains of Afghanistan on a mission to kill a dangerous Taliban leader, Ahmad Shah played by Yousuf Azami. When the team runs into a group of goat herders associated with the Taliban they are forced to call of the mission as compromised due to rules of engagement. After releasing the herders the team must run for their lives through the mountainous terrain to escape the Taliban, try to make radio contact with their base, and survive.

Reviewer’s Rating: 4/5 Reels


Lone Survivor is a testament to human will, courage, and ability under overwhelming duress. While it is an intense action filled movie, the emotional and mental will power of the soldiers show is what carries the movie. The story is almost non-existent, but each moment is wrought with tension over whether they will survive that sucks you into the thick of battle. The only disturbing portrayal in the movie was the Taliban itself, which often was shown as faceless, stereotyped villains.

This is a true story that makes the almost unbelievable nature of it even more powerful. It gives the viewer a very real glimpse of what military life is like, and the chaotic and changing nature of war. As the soldiers fight for their lives there are many moments in which the audience audibly gasped and cried out in pain for these men (and I was watching it in a $3 theatre that shows movies months after they’ve come out). The movie plays on human compassion and sentiment greatly, as it makes you feel for the soldier’s pain. While it has become common place to disrespect or be angry at the troops because of the political nature of modern wars in the Middle East, this movie does its best to portray war from the perspective of the people fighting them, not from an idealistic political point of view. I found this refreshing and unbiased. It allowed for me to love the characters in the story much more as I saw them as people with families and lives, and not just as minions of a greater political ideal.

The story is very linear and simple. There is a bad guy, there is a mission, the mission goes south, and they have to survive. This did not take away from the movie, though, but added to it. Many war and action movies are hard to follow and unbelievable. The simple story allows the viewers not only to follow along with what is happening easily, but to focus their attention on the characters and their suffering.

The one area that seemed a little discomforting though was the portrayal of the Taliban. We get very little back story on them. The mission is based on the killing of 20 marines by Ahmad Shah, but we don’t know why, or how, or what the reasoning behind the Americans presence there. This is forgivable considering the movie tries to stray away from politics and focus on the soldier’s lives. The problem really comes when guns start going off. The camera is focused completely on the SEAL team. Four men take out dozens of Taliban troops while escaping, and when the Taliban are shot they always immediately fall down as if dead instantaneously. The clips of them dying are also very quick and often seen as through the scope of a riffle, not dramatically as the SEAL team is portrayed. The way in which this movie was shot seemed to dehumanize the Taliban troops. Their faces and heads are always covered in scarfs and turbans as well so that we get the feeling that a faceless and lifeless enemy is fighting against our heroes surviving. It creates a blind hatred toward the Taliban members. In a movie that is all about humanizing the individuals that fight wars, this realization disturbed me because it announced the bias within the film itself.

Excluding the politics and human moral dilemma of the movie though, it is a moving story about the endurance and struggle to live. There were many moments were I sat back in amazement at the ability of the human body to keep going even when battered and seemingly broken. For that alone this movie is worth seeing, but it is only made better by the lovable and sympathetic characters and easy story to follow.     

By: Jake Anderson

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