LONE SURVIVOR // Not since “Saving Private Ryan” has war felt so real. Through the help of the real life accounts from Petty Officer Marcus Luttrell and his memoirs recounting the horrific days where he and his four-man SEAL team were engaged by a Taliban group while on a surveillance mission, the story of “Lone Survivor” breathes authenticity, creating an emotional connection akin to “Band Of Brothers” while delivering the cinematic thrills of war of Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece. Bringing the story of Michael Murphy, Matthew Axelson, and Danny Dietz to life was Marcus Luttrell’s ultimate goal following the gruesome events in Afghanistan, describing it as his divine reason for surviving. Recounting the frustrating incidents of the day, from running into a goat farmer and his sons whom compromised their mission, to communications not working in the rocky terrain, to Apache’s not being readily available when they were supposed to, it all tells like a cinematic story, full of tension and roadblocks that keep the story high paced and engaging. Sadly, the autobiographical nature of that same quality makes the film emotionally harder to watch.
Director Peter Berg captures several things that make this a successful war film. First of all, the pairing of these four men is genius, plucking some of the most talented men in the industry currently and placing them together in this “Band Of Brothers” atmosphere. Mark Wahlberg plays Luttrell and despite not being the leader of this company, Wahlberg’s presence comes off full of leadership qualities that helps him to survive. Ben Foster is another excellent choice, as he steals the show more often than not, fighting until his very last breath, which is devastating in its sound design. Taylor Kitsch and Emile Hirsh round out the company, both adhering to a certain character type and bravery that sets them apart from the rest of the group. But the way these actors play off each other is nothing short of brilliant, with a banter that comes off like real friends in high stress environments.
Another quality that Berg captures, whether the audience wants it or not, is impeccable sound design, especially in the gun fights and the moments where the guys take some hefty tumbles down the mountainside. In Berg’s “Lone Survivor”, he makes sure you hear every single gun shot wound, often with a visual to match, and be warned, this happens a lot. The focus of the battles is placed on the sound, whether it’s puncture wounds, breaking bones, or raspy breathing, Berg makes sure the audience feels as much of the pain as possible and it’s truly effective. Every time the crew rolls down the hillside, the audience cringes with every thud and crack. You wonder how the human body could have taken so much punishment. “Lone Survivor” proves the strength of the men in the U.S. military and brings Luttrell’s story to the big screen, hopefully offering him a little more solace. If anything, the true-to-life story of four men taking on anywhere from 50 to 200 enemy fighters (depending on what accounts you believe to be true), should be an inspiration for those that often derail action films for not being believable as the hero takes out hoards of enemies. War is an interesting subject for those that have never been involved in it, and with recent candid entries of cinema crossing to the front-lines in non-fiction with the documentary “Restrepo” and in fiction covering non-fictious accounts like “Lone Survivor”, the general public garners at least a glimpse of what these soldiers go through on a daily basis and develops that much more respect for the men in the wars that we do not see.
[Directed by Peter Berg] [R] [121 min] [25 December 2013]