Movie Review – Lone Survivor (2013)

Lone Survivor, 2013.

Directed by Peter Berg.
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster, Yousuf Azami, Ali Suliman, Eric Bana and Alexander Ludwig.


Marcus Luttrell and his team set out on a mission to capture or kill notorious al Qaeda leader Ahmad Shahd, in late June 2005. Marcus and his team are left to fight for their lives in one of the most valiant efforts of modern warfare.

At its core, Lone Survivor is little more than a passion project, an almost American piece of propaganda. The first 10 minutes is a seemingly never ending montage of Navy SEALs training, an introduction more appropriate as a distasteful advert for the American army. Thankfully however, the film recovers fairly quickly gaining pace rapidly and ending in a “shit-storm” of brutality and tension. Peter Berg makes films less as pieces of thespian drama, but as bloated examples of the American film industry at there absolute worse.

In previous years, Berg has directed with a heavy hand, performances heavy and unsubtle. Maybe the limited but still immensely talented cast of Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch and Eric Bana grounds the film. There is of course an underlying layer of cockiness that the film fails to shrug off-in a similar vein to Battleship – but it works to the films success. Wahlberg’s Luttrell balances an intensity and a sense of realism that very few actors could achieve while the much maligned Taylor Kitsch finally has a role in which his star power deserves to be boosted by.

Lone Survivor is a film about falling, both metaphorically and quite literally. Every moment of violence is of an uncomfortable brutality and each bullet is as gratuitously bloody as one could only imagine. If Berg aimed to create a film less entertaining than it is an example of heroism and brutality then he has succeeded in bucket loads. The problem with cranking it up to 10 from the off results in a finale that feels lack-lustre and predictable, a conclusion with nothing more than schmaltz.

The idea of heroism pulls the film down, awkwardly making every death a martyr, cranking up the schmaltz to an uncomfortable level. By no means as uncomfortably offensive and ugly as Act of Valour, Lone Survivor still struggles to build upon the political interests of Berg. The heavy hand of the Navy is spread across the film in a manner in which as the film comes to a close, one could be forgiven for mistaking it as simply a piece of propaganda. To the praise of Berg however, he does portray loyalty and courage as concepts with no boundaries, an idea that if forgotten would have resulted in a film of such distaste.

Lone Survivor is brutal and relentless but plays less as a film, and more as a piece of awkward American propaganda. Exactly how successful the film will be depends solely on how far the viewer chooses to go with it. At least it’s better than Battleship.

Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★

Thomas Harris

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