It’s impossible to know what it’s like to be a Navy SEAL in battle, but Lone Survivor comes about as close as a movie ever by creating an experience that puts us right into the action with the characters. Based on a failed mission in Afghanistan, Lone Survivor focuses on 4 SEALs who are dropped into a remote area to capture and killer a Taliban leader.
Before the film gets to their mission, director Peter Berg builds up the camaraderie that exist between the men. He actually starts to film with real footage of soldiers going through brutal training and conditioning to become a SEAL. Once we get to the fictional characters, Berg shows them hanging out on the base and connecting with their loved ones back home through instant messaging.
But it doesn’t take long for the four soldiers (played by Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Ben Foster, and Emile Hirsch) to be dropped into their mission. They surveil the Taliban camp in the trees, but end up having some villagers discover them by accident. They tie up the potential threats and have to decide what to do with them. They either kill them, or leave them tied up and continue on the mission, or let them go and have them run back to the village and warn the others. They decide to do the honourable thing (they can’t just kill unharmed civilians) and let them go.
They leave but the Taliban move fast and it leads to a showdown that takes over the rest of the film. It’s like one big action sequence that never lets up. There’s 2 moments where the four men have to jump/fall down a hill in order to escape enemy fire, and their descent down the rocky terrain is one of the most brutal sequences we’ve ever seen in a war film. Bodies falling, bones crushing, skin slashing…you experience it all with the focused direction and piercing sound mixing.
Leading the men through the brutal mission is Mark Wahlberg, in his best performance since Three Kings. Playing a soldier really brings out something special in Wahlberg. It’s a passionate, committed portrayal that brings out emotions we rarely see in Wahlberg.
Lone Survivor doesn’t reach the heights of Saving Private Ryan (well, does anything?). The four characters fail to emotionally register with the audience as individuals like all the characters in Spielberg’s classic did. Instead, Lone Survivor focuses more on the group as a whole. The film does have a beautiful third act twist from an unlikely source that helps save the day. It’s a simple human act that has enormous impact.
Clearly, Lone Survivor‘s goal is to show the sacrifice that these SEALs make and it does that incredibly well. You won’t forget this film anytime soon.