Lone Survivor, an explosive passion project from writer-director Peter Berg, takes an unrelentingly gruesome look at Operation Red Wings, the failed 2005 mission in Afghanistan that claimed the lives of 19 American soldiers. The movie centres on the four SEALs dropped into hostile territory, and how an unfortunate civilian encounter and communications problems led to a massive gun battle with insurmountable odds.
In a performance that stands among his best, Mark Wahlberg plays Marcus Luttrell, the Navy SEAL who co-wrote the book this movie is based upon (the real Luttrell has a cameo early in the film and acted as a consultant). Luttrell and fellow SEALs Michael Murphy (Kitsch), Danny Dietz (Hirsch) and Matt Axelson (Foster) were performing reconnaissance for a mission meant to capture or kill a noted Taliban leader when their mission gets fatally compromised.
They soon confront a rush of radical villagers and Taliban fighters who pop out from behind every tree and rock that circles their makeshift base on a mountainside, and thanks to some bone crunching action, the audience is dragged right into the midst of their fight for survival.
Lone Survivor depicts group vitality and heroism, from the clipped opening montage, which illustrates the physical and mental toughness of SEAL training, through the frenzied battle that the SEALs keep waging, even when battered and beaten and barely alive. The visceral momentum sweeps you into some graphic combat and its probably the closest you or I will ever get (or want to from the looks of this) to a running gun battle.
Without resorting to politics it deals with the brutal, relentless challenges of modern warfare, though at times it comes across as less of a depiction of true events than as a real life GI Joe when getting across its point that yes, SEALs are completely badass.
There are moments that paint a picture far more black and white than the truth could possibly be, and its as clichéd as a recruitment video for American armed forces when it comes to showing us that mascara-wearing Taliban really are the most evil people on the planet. Yet for all it’s faults Lone Survivor wins you over. In its own harsh, harrowing way, it pays heartfelt tribute to fallen heroes, and delivers a damn fine action movie along the way.
(Images courtesy Collider, IMDb, Empire)