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Lone Survivor (2013) – Review

4 Stars


Rebounding in spectacular fashion from the dismal naval themed Hasbro tie-in bomb Battleship, director Peter Berg and his top-notch cast deliver one of 2013’s best films. Taken from the first hand account of the failed mission Operation Red Wings in June of 2005, the gripping and thunderously intense tale is constantly involving and mercifully short at just under two hours. Having read the book by Marcus Luttrell, played here by a superb Mark Wahlberg, I was not quite sure what to expect from the ‘Hollywood’-ization by Berg and his cast of pretty boys. I’ll eat my words, as Lone Survivor the movie is as intense as the source material that inspired it. I loved this film, not only is it the most outstanding movie to deal with the Afghan conflict to date, but it is also one of the greatest war films ever made, period.

Steadying himself between the frenzied/documentary style film-making that Ridley Scott employed on Black Hawk Down and Oliver Stone’s straightforward static visual aesthetic of Platoon, Berg and cinematographer Tobias Schliessler, along with the beautifully melancholy music of Explosions in the Sky, have fashioned an intimate portrait of brothers in arms pushed to make life-changing decisions under major duress. The mission is simple enough, drop into a hotbed of Taliban activity and assassinate one of the leaders. The squad of four men, each highly trained Navy SEALS, find their task compromised by the arrival of three wandering villagers, who literally trip over the American soldiers. Do the Frogmen let the villagers go free, even though they are most likely informants? Or do they kill these possibly innocent bystanders and break rules of engagement and Geneva law? It’s a decision that has serious ramifications for this abandoned band of military brothers.

The second half of the film is dedicated almost entirely to a gunfight that is so hellish in its authenticity, it rightly deserves comparison to Saving Private Ryan. The final five minutes of the film showcase pictures and video of the expired service men who fell during the disastrous Operation, over a haunting acoustic version of the David Bowe classic ‘Heroes’ sung by Peter Gabriel, it and the film are a powerhouse not to be missed. As difficult and uncomfortable as it maybe to sit through, Lone Survivor is my pick for best movie of 2013.

Director: Peter Berg
Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch

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