FilmReview

Lone Survivor: Contender or Pretender?

Griffin Thomas Conlogue ’15 / Emertainment Monthly Editor

Still of Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster and Emile Hirsch in Lone Survivor.  © 2013 - Universal Pictures.
Still of Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster and Emile Hirsch in Lone Survivor. © 2013 – Universal Pictures.

We’ve come a long way since Battleship.  Peter Berg’s 2012 disaster of a disaster film is far back in the rear-view mirror, and Lone Survivor is right on the horizon.  The film is seen as quite “Oscar-baity”, and has garnered quite a bit of buzz already.  Lone Survivor is the true story of SEAL Team 10’s mission to capture or kill a high ranking member of the Taliban  during the War in Afghanistan.  The film is based on Marcus Luttrell’s non-fiction book of the same name.  Mark Wahlberg portrays Luttrell in the film.

The film starts with the group of SEALs hanging around their camp, where you get a good look at their personalities.  The first part of the film drags on at moments, and it feels like it takes too long to get to the real content of the film: the mission.  When four of the SEALs (Wahlberg, Ben Foster, Emile Hirsch, and Taylor Kitsch) are left near a Taliban camp and are soon discovered.  They must try to escape from 200+ Taliban operatives while they attempt to get a radio signal out for support.  This leads the way for a surprising and uplifting conclusion.

There are a few things in this film that are near perfect.  The break-neck pace of the second and third acts will keep every viewer on the edge of their seat.  Berg’s ability to make the viewer care about his characters is also in full effect here.  This is a heartbreaking and emotional experience that many will struggle to sit through.  It is a brutal, and honest look at the cruelty of war.  It is potentially the most violent war film produced in Hollywood since Black Hawk Down or Saving Private Ryan.  Wahlberg does a fantastic job commanding the screen and keeping the viewers invested in this group of brave men.  Overall, it is a very strong film.

Still of Mark Wahlberg in Lone Survivor. © 2013 - Universal Pictures.
Still of Mark Wahlberg in Lone Survivor. © 2013 – Universal Pictures.

There are moments of weakness though.  Besides the aforementioned slow first act, Berg made some decisions as a director that were a bit iffy.  The over-use of slow motion is a bit distracting and laughable at times.  There are a lot of moments that include the soldiers falling off of cliffs, and with slow motion these scenes are reminiscent of Andy Samberg falling down a cliff in Hot Rod.  The film was also a little too over the top with its agenda.  This is already one of the most patriotic films in modern film, but by making the film propagandistic it makes the film seem a little preachy.  It gave the film an agenda that cheapened it.

It is hard to imagine this film will have the legs to earn an Oscar nomination for Best Picture.  With this being one of the strongest years of film in recent years, it is unlikely that it will sneak in to the 5-10 nomination field.  This is the type of film Academy voters love, and stranger things have happened, but it isn’t as strong of a film as Nebraska or Fruitvale Station, and many more contenders are still yet to be released.  Still, the film is a pretty strong portrayal of war and it’s brutality.  This is a must-see film this winter.

Overall Grade: B

Stills from the film:

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