Writer: Casey LeeWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
"Black Hawk Down", "Act of Valor", "Behind Enemy Lines" and "The Kingdom".
Few might still remember 2012's "Battleship" made by Peter Berg, but fewer may know that the reason why Berg had allowed his name to sink along with the tumultuous flop was because Universal had only agreed to fund a personal project of Berg's, if he had agreed to do the board game adaptation. That personal project was to adapt "Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwings and the Lost Heroes of Seal Team 10"; a memoir written by Navy SEAL member Marcus Luttrell based on his own accounts of the botched operation that happened during the war in Afghanistan in 2005 .
On 28 June 2005, an American military base in Afghanistan launches "Operation Redwings" to search and exterminate Taliban commander Ahmad Shah, who was last seen terrorizing villagers in the mountainous region of Afghanistan. Four Navy SEAL members (played by the combined power cast of Mark Walhberg, Emile Hirsch, Taylor Kitsch and Ben Foster) were deployed as a reconnaissance team to identify the target before calling in a Quick Reaction Force to execute the target. While the mission proceeds smoothly as planned at first, the operation becomes compromised when the team is discovered by innocent goat herders. Unable to relay the situation due to faulty communications, the four-man team has to make an ethical decision of war that would greatly affect their mission and their lives.
The repercussion of that decision, as seen in the trailers if you haven't been spoiled, is evident and so "Lone Survivor" isn't much interested in adding anything to the moral debates about the rules of engagement, only for it to serve as the spark that sets the firefight alight. Peter Berg's direction is strong in leading his small and equally commanding cast to quickly build a rapport among them with the audience.
But the main strength of Berg has always been building up the intensity that is carefully allowed to burn into a blazing roar, from the minute the SEALs land on the ground to the first RPG blowing away boulders into deadly shrapnel. This is done excellently through Tobias Schliessler's tight cinematography. By shooting wide-lensed confined close-ups during the protracted gun battle that (rightfully) takes up a major portion of the run time, it gives a clear and sharp sense of jaggedness to sink in the realities of actually being there, without having to resort to 'realistic' (and nauseous) shaky camera techniques that can often times cause confusion with every motion in a blur.
Another commendation should be given to the Academy-nominated sound-mixing and editing; an element not easily noticed in other war movies, but in here it amplifies the intensity when you irrevocably dodge in your seat from the sound of an offscreen whizzing bullet, or hold your sides when hearing every bone crunch. And there's going to be plenty of those moments.
Where "Lone Survivor" falls off the cliff is Berg's inclined interpretation to make these heroes appear a little uncomfortably as martyrs. Berg's reverence for the toughness of these highly trained and enduring soldiers, while seemingly respectful from the opening montage, may come off as idolizing them at the expense of getting inside what makes these men, essentially still flesh and blood. That frailty is shown by the amounts of atrocious cuts, bruises, dismemberments, and broken bones to set that the injuries are real and felt, but the dramatised send-offs for them is an open wound that would have anti-propagandists easily infect with their rhetoric.
Berg's written screenplay also has an uneven pacing by the end when it seems to make a conscious decision to minimize potential moments to humanise the main character, especially during the respite he receives from his rescuers after being battered and bruised to be a non-combatant. Instead, the emotional conflicts are resolved with an added gun battle that did not happen.
War movie fans, military nuts or just plain action-seekers would definitely get a kick out of "Lone Survivor", if they came here looking for a fine addition to the movies depicting the grit and grim of modern warfare. For those who require a little authenticity without the chest-thumping sentiments that can be interpreted here if they wanted to, their enjoyment would vary with their tolerance against American jingoism. Cinema Online, 29 January 2014