If you enjoy films with small teams of patriotic heroes battling for survival then you’ll love this.
Lone Survivor is most definitely a Peter Berg film; we have the weaponry, the alpha-males and the patriotism. Much like his other films The Kingdom and Battleship, Lone Survivor seems much more intense and powerful and I’d say it is quite simply his best film yet. Based on the book by lone survivor Marcus Luttrell, we see Mark Wahlberg fight with such conviction to survive. Often when making films based on books it is hard to be committed to preserving the real life experience but in Lone Survivor it keeps the commitment solely focused on what those men endured during their mission, and boy do we feel it. The cinematography is completely fluid and analysed and we see and feel every single bone-crunching, body-rupturing moment.
The film quickly begins its hammering journey as the Navy SEALS are stumbled upon by three local shepherds after they camp out at their secret and covert insertion point, near a remote village where a Taliban leader is believed to be hiding. The team of four are torn between killing the non-combatants or aborting their mission and releasing them with the knowledge that their whereabouts will soon be revealed. Leading Petty Officer Luttrell leads with leader Lt. Michael Murphy (Taylor Kitsch), Matthew ‘Axe’ Axelson (Ben Foster) and Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch) – Choose to let them go, knowing that their mission would soon be hindered. The majority of the action and mainly the whole film is an adrenaline-fuelled chase through unknown and hostile mountainous land. The SEALS are mainly on their own as satellite phone coverage is patchy but they live in hope that back at Bagram Airfield Base, their Lieutenant Commander Erik Kristensen (Eric Bana) will save them by helicopter rescue.
…Their teamwork, though scripted, doesn’t feel that way…
Berg really allows us to feel their situation right through to our very core as we watch the gun battle between the Taliban and the Americans. The fight is frantic but uniquely quite coherent too. We know where each man is at all times and we understand what they are set out to do. Their teamwork, though scripted, doesn’t feel that way. It feels heightened and pulped and we take a great amount of joy as the “bad guys” are punctured by bullets from our “good guys” but as the audience, we are fully aware that a group of four men cannot beat an army of Taliban fighters so our hope begins to dwindle (and the fact it’s called Lone Survivor is a sure hint.)
We watch as one American followed by another is brutally killed in battle leaving the lone survivor, Marcus Luttrell to try and survive. We watch as his body takes an unbearable amount of pain as he hides underneath rocks, waiting for the enemy to leave. Luttrell awakens the next day and is found by local Pashtun villagers who take him back to a nearby village. Mohammad Gulab, leader of the Pashtun’s takes Luttrell into his home and sends another local to the nearest American air base where military forces are notified of Luttrell’s location. The Taliban fighters arrive looking for Luttrell but Gulab stops them. They leave but come back armed with more fighters to punish the villagers for protecting an American. After fighting for survival, American forces arrive in helicopters that shoot at the Taliban and bring Luttrell back to the US base where they battle to save his life.
…characters which are human beings with human feelings…
The film takes us from a group decision to a hard consequence which ultimately is the core of the film, and it works so well. Berg opens up the film with real life footage of Navy SEALS training through dirt, ice cold water and hardcore weight training which this is a clear attempt to convince us of true camaraderie and fighting spirit, clearly achieved throughout the duration of the film.
We are introduced to characters which are human beings with human feelings. Although built as warriors we see them at both highest and lowest peaks and this is empathised during the closing credits. On the screen we are shown poignant series of photographs and home-movie clips of the actual soldiers who sadly died during the operation that Lone Survivor recounts. What is important to note is that the series of photographs are ongoing and hard-hitting and it shows the now-dead men embracing their children, marrying their wives, enjoying precious moments and welcoming newborns into the world.
…it makes us realise just how lucky we are to be surrounded by people we love…
What Lone Survivor successfully aims to achieve is significance and importance and as an audience we are made aware of what can and does go on in the world and it makes us realise just how lucky we are to be surrounded by people we love, and to appreciate what people have subsequently lost.