Lone Survivor is Peter Berg‘s (Battleship) latest war film that attempts to tug at your heartstrings, while laying out everything that’s wrong with films like this and why they mean so little, when they should me so much. Lone Survivor tells the gripping true story of four courageous men that put their lives on the line for their country and their mission, but Berg’s execution is nothing more than a scrambled mess of cliches and empty heroics.
Marcus (Mark Wahlberg), Danny (Emile Hirsch), Mike (Taylor Kitsch) and Matt (Ben Foster) are four Navy SEALs given the mission to track down and kill a notoriously deadly Taliban leader. They’re four brave, loving and determined young men that are willing to do anything for each other, their team and the United States of America.
Their mission gets complicated when they encounter some civilians and are faced with the decision to either let them go and face an army of heavily armed men or murder them and live with that on their conscious for the rest of their lives. Their decision ultimately leads to one inspirational and heroic true story that’s being told through a leaning lens by writer/director Peter Berg.
I need to make myself loud and clear before tackling my review. The story in which Lone Survivor is based on is definitely a moving one and one that makes me appreciate the US Military, more specifically the Navy SEALs that much more. The men and women that fight and die for our country daily are people that I respect and will always value highly. The actual true story that this film is based on is a remarkable one and politics aside, one that should motivate many and make you feel a heck of a lot more grateful for not having to carry out such difficult and deadly missions that are SEALs and many other branches of the Military have to face on a day-to-day basis.
My problems with the Lone Survivor rest with writer/director Peter Berg and his inability to tell a war story with some weight. Lone Survivor is another victim of cliches, focusing too much on being an “America rocks” piece of propaganda and not so much on being an actual story, with real characters that face real situations.
The characters Berg presents here are all faceless examples of what a “true” soldier should be. Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, Taylor Kitsch and Emile Hirsch all play tough-as-nails SEALs that are cold and calculated in the field, yet loving and gentle when talking to their loved ones back home. These are guys that will take dozens upon dozens of bullets for each other or their team. These are also indestructible super soldiers that can apparently be tossed down 50 foot hills and shot at multiple times through the chest, without barely slowing down one bit.
Yet their enemies fall quickly and quietly after the smallest bullet graces their flesh.
Seriously Berg, what is this lopsided shit that you’re feeding us?
Lone Survivor has absolutely no sense of realism. Its depiction of an American soldier versus an enemy soldier is almost laughably offense.
The action is the only thing that feels authentic and real. There’s lots of intense, shaky cam combat sequences that feel like you’re being thrown directly into battle, giving you that exact feeling of not knowing what the heck is going on at any point. This is great and all, but sometimes headache-inducing and confusing. Props to Berg for capturing that intensity guerilla warfare style, but at the same time, would it be too much to pull things back and allow us to differentiate which soldier is getting shot at? No, because Berg doesn’t really care about his characters as individuals, but more so as what they represent: bad ass America. Shoot first, ask questions later.
Seriously, the film’s biggest hero isn’t given much more than a handshake during the film and a brief spot during the film’s emotional ending credits. I’m talking about the man with his son, who takes in one of the American soldiers out of his duty to an ancient code that he and his people have been following for years.
Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, Taylor Kitsch and Emile Hirsch all give typical war film performances. They provide the essential grunts and screams of battle, while occasionally allowing us to really get to know their characters as people, whenever Berg isn’t too hell-bent on making sure the action and gunfire takes up most of the film’s clunky running time. Wahlberg gets the most screen time, yet he feels just as shallow and unexplored as the rest of the crew. It’s sometimes hard to tell the men apart, because they’re all so similar and boring. This isn’t a fault to the performers, but more so Berg’s writing and direction, which focuses more on the overall “message” that Berg’s trying to get across and not so much the actual men involved with the story.
Lone Survivor isn’t Berg paying tribute to the fallen men and women of this mission. It’s Berg glorifying it and making one of the most generic and empty war films of all-time. I appreciate the gesture of bringing such a fantastic story to light, but I’m offended that Berg can get away with such robbery on-screen. How anyone can consider this a good film is beyond me. Lone Survivor is trash that attacks your emotions with patriotism and heroics, but doesn’t bother actually exploring what either of those things actually mean.
Lone Survivor – 6/10